IRANZ Insight: How to plan a Season Campaign

Every rugby coach must plan their season campaign.

A successful rugby season rarely occurs by chance. In almost all cases, careful thought and much planning has gone into the rugby season – well before the season has even started.

For those coaches seeking success in the 2019 rugby season… if not already, the planning for next season needs to start now!

The following article provides an insight into the process and the basic steps that should be followed in order to plan a successful Rugby Season Campaign.

The year-round plan

All Coaches must have a year-round programme that integrates each of the following aspects:

  • Physical development and fitness
    • Incorporating general stamina, speed, strength, power, flexibility etc.
  • Psychological development skills and motivation
    • This includes goal setting, concentration development and performance profiling
  • Technical skill development
    • Principles of play, key skill analysis, accuracy and functional roles
  • Tactical appreciation
    • The overall development of your season game-plan, which considers the profile of your team and the tactics you will employ, and finally
  • Off-field development
    • This includes things like recruitment, team culture, the rest of the coach/management team, sponsors, board and other key stakeholders.
IRANZ Speed Testing
Physical training should cover stamina, strength, speed, power and flexibility.

While a balance of each of these aspects is crucial, each coach must carefully consider which of these areas their coaching staff and players need to place emphasis – and plan accordingly.

Developing a game-plan

A game plan is crucial to give your players a sense of direction. As the saying goes, if you don’t know where you’re going, then any road will do!

Coaches must carefully consider the profile of their players, and what style of play will suit their team and ultimately give them the best opportunity of winning from week-to-week.

Here are some key questions to ask yourself throughout this process:

  • Where are the team’s strengths and weaknesses?
  • Similarly, what is the overall profile of the team?
  • What skills are required by players to implement this game plan? Do they currently have these skills and/or will they develop these skills enough throughout the season?
  • Who will be the key role-players / leaders and what will be required of them in order to implement the game plan successfully?
IRANZ Staff Coach Mike Brewer
Pictured: IRANZ Staff Coach Mike Brewer discusses defensive strategies on one of our recent Coaches Courses

Bear in mind the game plan may need to be adjusted throughout the season, to exploit the weaknesses identified in opposition teams.

Having this plan in place avoids players feeling unsure about what they are trying to achieve on the field, and their role to play.

Planning your training sessions and coaching programme

Now that there’s a plan in place for the full-season, and a game plan has been developed – it’s time to put more thought into your training sessions and overall coaching programme.

In developing your training schedule, make sure you keep the following principles in mind:

  • General and specific training
    • Incorporate different drills and practice together as a unit for skills that are relevant to all players. Then consider what aspects would be relative to units (i.e. backs and forwards), and then mini-units (i.e. front-rowers, outside backs etc.).
    • Secondly, make individual players aware of what they need to work on in their own time. Emphasise that today’s game requires multiple technical skills, irrespective of position.
  • Progressive overload
    • Improvement will only occur if intensity, duration and quality of training are progressively increased
  • Recovery
    • Physical training must follow a pattern of load (overload) followed by recovery. Follow periods of physical stress by periods of recovery to avoid deteriorating performance.
  • Variation
    • Players will adapt to a training load that remains the same. Be sure to keep your players interested and engaged by varying the order of training and using new drills and games. Interest will stimulate the mind and body to react positively.
Some drills will be relevant to all players; as you need them all to be proficient in that particular skill. For example, this drill from Wayne Smith on “Attacking the Space”

In planning the content of your training sessions, revisit your game plan and consider what skills and capabilities are required to implement the game plan successfully.

Make sure to incorporate the relevant drills accordingly.

Phases of training

Having added more thought to what you will incorporate into your training, you will also need to consider the stage of the year they are relevant – and to what degree of intensity.

The season is often broken down into off-season, pre-season and in-season components. The calendar year can be segmented further with consideration to the representative season:

*NB: The months below are indicative only of the Southern Hemisphere season, and will differ for Club and School rugby

  • Phase 1: General preparation (December to February)
    • The objective of this phase is to build a solid foundation. Consider developing base stamina, strength and flexibility in all players. Secondly, correct major faults in technical skills and consider any law changes and developments from last season. Goal setting may also be relevant.
  • Phase 2: Specific preparation (March to May)
    • The objective of this phase is to start building skills specific to individuals and positions. Consider the physical, technical and tactical elements of individual performance. Progressively increase volume and intensity.
  • Phase 3: Early season competition phase (May to July)
    • The aim here is to work towards “peak” performance. Physical training should intensify, but at a lower volume. Place emphasis on unit and mini-unit skills, with respect to the game plan, pattern and tactics.
  • Phase 4: Main competition phase (August to October)
    • The objective of training throughout this phase is to produce optimum performance. Ensure to include some variety to practice and training.
  • Phase 5: Transition phase (October to December)
    • Finally, this period is for rest and recovery, both physically and psychologically. Evaluate the season result, how processes can be improved for next season. Consider making a start on planning for next season.

With consideration made to the objectives of each phase – coaches must understand how the programme needs to adapt across the different phases.


A great plan will always help to ” steer the ship” throughout the season. But don’t forget – just like a player’s performance on the field – above all, it is how you implement the plan that really counts and will shine through in your match results.

Finally, make sure you take the time build relationships with your players. Be open to feedback and continually review your plan and performance throughout the season.

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