Training Tips

Keep the Playing Field Level

Everyone loves winning. But a ‘win at all costs’ attitude can sour the spirit of a game, and change it from something that should be fun into an unpleasant experience.


Rugby is all about playing hard – but it’s also about playing fair. That’s why we have rules of the game, as well as match officials such as the touch judges and a ref.

Here are some tips about fair play on the field, taken from the ‘RugbySmart’ website. This is a great resource for players and coaches alike, full of pointers on how to play hard and play safe. Check it out at

When you’re online, also check out ‘SmartTips’. These are wallet cards containing a range of training and safety information that you can print out for the whole team. Go to

What motivates you to play?
When thinking about what we mean by fair play, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on what it is we enjoy most about the game of rugby.

Most of us could probably come up with a list as long as our arms in answer to this. But the following things are likely to figure on many of our lists:
• a sense of mateship with our fellow players
• the ‘high’ that comes from turning long hours of practice on cold, wet nights into those magic moments that happen on the field
• the sheer sense of achievement we get by going out and literally putting our body on the line

Now think about how much these great aspects of the game are watered down – or taken away altogether – if we try to cheat our way to victory.

Does a win achieved by cheating really give us the same sense of satisfaction as one achieved on skill and ability? I think most of us would answer ‘no’ to that.

What the rules are there for
Most rules in the game of rugby are there for two reasons – to shape the way the game is played, and for safety.

Without the rules, the sport of rugby as we know it simply wouldn’t exist, because it’s the rules that define what the game is and how it’s played. So it’s worth giving the rules a whole lot of respect on that score alone.

Many other rules are designed to safeguard you against serious injury. The ‘no head-high tackle’ rule is a classic example. The potential consequences of breaking this rule are just so dangerous that the rule needs little justification.

Respect the ref
A big part of fair play is respecting the decisions of the ref.

Sure, there are going to be times when the ref makes the wrong decision, and you lose points as a result. But remember, the ref is only human, and has to make decisions based on the information available to them at the time. It’s not an easy job, having to be up with the play all the time and detecting every small detail of what’s going on.

So if a decision goes against you, don’t take it personally - take it on the chin. An element of luck plays a part in any game, and you just have to accept that.

Concentrate on changing the things you can change – such as your own skills, fitness etc, and don’t worry about the things you can’t change, such as luck on the day.

Set an example
Everyone can play their part in encouraging fair play. If you make it clear through your actions that you don’t sink to using dirty tactics on the field, then that sends a clear message to others.

Supporters and spectators have a big part to play, too. If you applaud good play (whether by your team or their opponents) and don’t support foul play, that can all help in keeping negative stuff out of the game.

Remember, play for enjoyment and play hard, but play fair.

For actual demonstrations of all these techniquies, visit

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