In This Section:

The Technical Model

IRFU Technical Direction - Stephen Aboud (Technical Development Manager)

At a summary there are three main points to note with regard to the IRFU Technical Direction:

  1. It's an intregrated approach for developing a quality game centred on player capacities, coach driven and respecting the principles and realities of the game.
  2. It's focused on how to play the game at all levels while continuously developing the unit & individual skills to support the collective group performance.
  3. Its objective is to develop a quality game through improving the rugby knowledge and coaching ability of volunteer coaches and professional staff throughout the 5 stages of Long Term Player Development (player, game & coach) in Irish Rugby.

In 2004 the IRFU produced it's Long Term Player Development (LTPD) which is a Player Centred Model for Irish Rugby as a whole, the Technical Model is derived from the LTPD, but this is a Game-Rugby Centred Model.


                Click on Icons for further explanations


At first glance it is important not to be overwhelmed by what you see as the Technical Model. The model is  Game - Centred and has all aspects of  player development across all 5 stages of rugby included. The model deals with the reality of the game and what is required to play it. The model is disected in the next few chaptors and all terms explained with examples for your benefit. The coaching methods used in this site are aligned to the IRFU LTPD and Technical Models and hopfully will be of enormous benefit to coaches and players alike.


5 Stages of LTPD

If we were to make a graph of players from stage 1-3 based on there capacities and needs it might look something like the graph below. The stage 1 player (Players are Children) wants to play and have fun. The stage 2 player (Players are rapidly growing) needs to explore different positions and skills as the game is now 15-a-side and structured with full scrums, lineouts and restarts. The stage 3 player (Players are still growing rapidly) because of their increased capacities can focus on the development of an accurate performance.




The coach on the other hand must assume the role required of him accross the 5 stages.

The stage 1 player wants to play and the game to be fun so the coach must guide the players to improve by using the game and fun to achieve his/her goals.

The stage 2 player because he is growing rapidly will need to explore different positions and the game is now 15-a-side will need to accquire different skills. The coach is now a teacher and requires the knowledge to impart on the player as his/her capacities increase accross this stage. 

The stage 3 player because of his/her increased capacities wants to focus on an accrurate performance at collective, individual and unit skills. The coach now has to challenge the player to achieve this performance in training.

The stage 4 player is specialising at his/her position independently of the team and the game is measured through outcomes e.g. if we throw the ball here in the lineout what will  the outcome be, what does it take to achieve this outcome. The coach needs to faciltate the players by createing  this environment in training and questioning by the coach is more pronounced to faciltate players to problem solve.

The stage 5 player is more than likely a professional player and the game is all about the result, the player has the capacity for innovation with an emphasis on the strategic aspects of the game. The coach needs to empower  his players on the field but to do this must provide the planning and preperation required by players at this stage to be efficient. The team/collective comes before the individual.


The reality of the game




The Technical Model applies across all 5 stages of the IRFU LTPD model. The "Reality of the Game" deals with what's real in the game and it's characteristics which are displayed in the above diagram. At the centre of the circles is "Team Attack & Defence" and this refers to the phase play aspect of the game (after 1st phase, i.e. Restarts - Lineouts - Scrums). Across all 5 stages of LTPD this is dominent aspect of the game, the majority of game time revolves around "Team Attack & Defence" and it involves all players using their individual skills collectively and individually. For coaches getting the balance in training to prepare players to play in "The Reality of the Game" is the key to getting the players across all 5 stages to perform effectively.





This gragh shows the average percentage of "Team Attack & Defence" (General Movement) in proportion to Units and 1st Phase play across the 5 stages. 

After "Team Attack & Defence" we have the 1st Phase aspect of the game which restarts the game through lineouts, scrums and restarts and this initiates team attack & defence phase play. 1st Phase requires efficient Unit Play which in turns depend on the performance of the Mini Units where players apply their Specialist Skills.  An example of this would be a lineout (Unit Play) where the attacking team want to win their own throw efficiently. The mini units involved are the hooker and jumper and in the older age grades the lifters and jumper. The hooker applies his/her specialist hooker skills to achieve an accurate throw and the jumper and lifters apply their specialist skills to provide the jump and catch. Having secured possession the attack can now initiate phase play where the players can now apply their Individual Skills to play effectively in the game. On their own the individual skills are not revelent but if developed in the context of "Team Attack & Defence" (collective skills) players can develop an understanding of collective effectiveness.

Coaches can now develop their players by understanding what stage (1-5) their players are at and the requirements (Reality of the Game)  at that stage.



The Player



These capacities (capabilities) develop in the player from stage 1-5 and are outlined in detail in the IRFU LTPD model. It is important for coaches to understand what stage of development there players are at so they can align their development plans according to the players capacities to prepare them for the next Stage of rugby. For example the requirements for the physical capacities of the players accross stages 1-3 would see a Stage 1 coach looking to improve the the players Fundamental Movement Skills, while the Stage 2 coach now has a Major Motoring Learning Window (Agility, Flexibility, Co-ordination, Manipulation & Balance). The Stage 3 coach must take into account the needs of his players physical requirements in the following areas, Multi-Activity Endurance, Strength and Speed. The coach does not necessarily need to be a Strength and Conditioning coach but should be aware of the players requirements when planning the rugby activities. These activities can be incorporated into a training program and can be a fun and safe way of player physical development. The same applies to to other capacities and again it comes down to coaches understanding their players.


The Coach



The role of the coach is to manage the relationship between the Reality of the Game and the Player. To be effective in the game at their stage of development the player needs to be able to develop competencey and understanding of the capacities shown above to the level of their abilty. All players need to develop at their own rate of readiness and a coach can achieve this by respecting the following three principles:

Moving from General to Specific:

Since the game is governed by Principles coaches should remember we are coaching players to play a game and not applying individual skills. If we start with the general principles and as it develops deal with the specifics as required to help player and coach to gain an understanding of the Principles Of Play. If we use the principle of Go Forward as an example a coach would like his players to Go Forward (General) with the ball, to do this players need to use their individual skills (Specific) to achieve this. Hence the coach would look at the general principle are my players going forward if not what specific skills are preventing it, so a coach might look at the players individual skills (Collective to the individual) of communication and evasion skills as the reason. This way a coach can move from General to Specific to improve the collective go forward of the team.

Moving from Simple to Complex:

A coach can develop a players understanding and confidence by moving from simple to complex to challenge the players ability to adapt and learn with the introduction of new concepts. In a 2 v 1 reduced activity the coach can have the defender in the same place for the attack (simple) and as the players improve their efficienty at the activity the coach can then introduce extra defenders coming from different angles (complex) to challenge the players ability and understand of their roles at the activity.

Moving from Known to Unknown:

Coaches can build on the previous knowledge of their players by moving from the known to the unknown. Players can build confidence through familiarity but in order to facilitate progression coaches can introduce unknown activities for players to develop. For example a coach may have a certain passing activity that he/she uses on a regular basis to improve the players, the coach can now create a secenario where players are coming up against the unknown to challenge their passing abilities in a game situation.

For the coach to manage the relationship between the player and the game he Guides - Teaches - Challlenges - Facillitates - Empowers the player across the 5 stages  depending on the capacities and needs of the player.

Coaching programmes must look at the capacities and needs of the player - Player programmes must relate to the demands and reality of the game. In this way coaches and players alike will understand the connection between the individual and the collective.


Elite Player Development



It is important to stress that the Technical Module and the LTPD is not intended to produce world class players to the detriment of everyone else but a series of stages to maximise the potential of players to their own ability and ambition. Every player and coach deserve a chance to maximise their potential but for the small percentage of players with the talent and desire to become elite performers it is important to have a long term programme. Within any Techicnal model there has to be an elite player pathway to cater for elite development.

The theory being that players are Developed in accordance with the Technical and LTPD models from Stages 1-3, players start to be Identified in Stages 3-4 they are further developed in the elite pathway through Stages 3-4 before finally being Confirmed as Stage 5 players where they move into elite player programmes.


Process Continuum




There is no template for the definitive coaching processes for any particular Stage of Rugby, rather coaches must adapt and apply the correct process as the circumstances require. For the coach and player alike there are four processes that must be present for learning to occur (Kolb Experiential Learning 1984) ;

Feeling - Experience

Doing - Experimenting

Watching - Observing

Thinking - Understanding


For example learning to ride a bike:


The Player                                                                         The Coach

Feeling        Receiving Techniques from an Expert (coach)    Receiving guidance  while coaching

Doing           Get on the bike and have a go                            Coaching from how you learned

Watching     How other people do it                                         How other coaches coach it

Thinking      Understanding the theory and the outcome         Researching  theory and  methods



By applying this theory to  the nine aspects of technical models Process Continuum we can not draw a line through the middle and say it is A or B at any Stage of Development, the line will be constantly changing across all five stages as the circumstances require. By protraying the processes as part of a continuum ensures flexibility rather then saying at any specific Stage of Rugby it is A or B. Reflecting on the nine aspects of the Process Continuum will facilitae more effective coaching and help get the balance right across the processes.



          To what extent are players leading or following? 


Having players leaders in teams can be of great benefit to a coach in implementing coaching processes other players follow the example (watching) of the leading players. The adverse effect is if a dominent player particularly at Stages 1 and 2 (size could be a factor here) tends to dominate the ball to the detriment of the other players. 


   Activity focus is on Collective skills (Group) or Reduced skills (Condensed)?


Do you concentrate on the reduced before the collective or vice versa and why would the concentration be on the reduced. Learning from specific experiences (feeling) and how the people around you react to those experiences can be a great way of progressing collective skills. Using trial and error in the collective (doing) will help players adapt to the changing circumstances and from this a coach can then implement the reduced skills required to hone those collective skills.


  Is the Teamplay Organised or Programmed?


Is the teamplay organised in that players are effective at whatever scenario that may arise (thinking) or are they programmed to play a certain way no matter what the situation. If players are programmed at a young age it may hamper their ability to take on new ideas and perspectives as they move through the stages.


  Are players Adaptive or Prescriptive as a result of the Coach's intervention?


As a coach you would like your players to be able to adapt to the changing circumstances that the game throws up but there are times when as a coach you may need to precribe to the players certain things e.g. You want your players to play a certain way to reflect their development (keeping the ball in the hand and moving it).


  Is the coaches perspective during training Player-centred or Task-centred?


Are you as a coach concentrating on the task at hand e.g. rucking activity and not on the players ability to do this activity.


  Are activities focused on Tactical Skills or Technical Development?


To perform the tactical skills under pressure players need the technical ability to achieve them so a coach needs to get the balance  between the two. The better the technical ability of the players the more he can concentrate on the tactical skills and obliviously the opposite is also true.


  Is problem solving promoted predominantly through Questioning or Telling?


Effective questioning is a way for the  coach getting to know the players understanding of a particular situation and for promoting problem solving by the players. But there are times particularly with the introduction of new skills where a coach may be telling more then questioning. 


  Does the coach communicate more by Listening or Talking?


The players are the ones involved in the action and as a result are gathering information, how a coach communicates with his/her players is the key to the coach benefiting from this information. The balance between listening to what the players are giving in feedback and relating the info back that the players require is one of the key aspects of effective coaching.

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