Training for the Fundamentals of Rugby

Written by Mr Simon Mulholland, Director of Rugby at Sedbergh School

Whatever your sport, strength, speed, and change of direction are fundamental to performance. Being able to generate force is vital in order to gain an advantage over your opponents. Combining strength with the ability to react and change direction is essential for players, which is why speed training is a vital part of training. Being strong and robust reduces the risk of injury and reduces muscle fatigue. These are characteristics of athletic development and generally speaking, better athletes make better players.

Sedbergh player lines up a kick

All training within rugby needs to be designed following the players’ needs analysis. Different players and positions will have different demands or requirements. Some players sprint 5-20m others 60m and more. Whatever the distance, they need to accelerate and produce speed.

All aspects of your game can be developed through hard work, commitment, and a comprehensive training programme. The three key areas to focus on could be speed/acceleration, strength and agility/ change of direction.  


Very simply, one of the best ways to develop your speed and acceleration is by sprinting. The general principles involve, forward lean, push the ground for longer, rise progressively and aggressively. These sessions are very easy to set up and can be completed anywhere with flat ground. Accelerations require maximal effort, so you need adequate recovery. You can also add resistance to this which will help the transfer of speed.

An example session may look like this:

  • 4x 10m sprints with 2minutes recovery between each
  • 4x20m sprints with 4minutes recovery between each
  • 4x30m sprints with 5minutes recovery between each


Through resistance training helps you build muscle, develop strength and improve stability. Generally, compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts and bench press are used to build maximum strength. Single limb exercises such as lunges can also be used to develop stability. It’s also important not to neglect core strength to ensure you are able to hold key positions during the game.

An example of the sets, repetitions and weight used:

  • 1-6 sets of 3-6 reps
  • 75-100% 1 rep maximum
  • Recovery 3-5 minutes

Change of Direction

Agility is important for rugby players. They need to be able to stop, change direction and sprint at any point so adding agility drills to your training is essential. Linking a players’ strength, speed and ability to change direction during a game will make them a key player in the team. 

Some drills that could be performed to improve change of direction:

  • 90 degree power cut drills- sprint to a cone and cut left or right
  • Sway drills- change centre of mass from side to side and accelerate in desired direction
  • Sprint to stop in a variety of directions
Sedbergh rugby player runs with the ball

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