Reading the game
Reading the game in rugby helps you know what opponents are about to do.
You do it so you and your team stay ahead of the opposition. Do it at more
than one level,
Reading is revealing
What you do when you read the game
What I mean by reading the game is the the process you constantly go through
during the game so you have good information available when you
you look at the current situation, taking in as much as possible
you quickly sum up what is taking place
you use that information and your knowledge of rugby
to come to an informed opinion about what will happen next
All players read the game to some extent
As a player, you read the game at a low level so you know
what to do next. In simple terms
you take in the field positions of the opposition players
you take in the field positions of your own players
you take in what is happening to the ball carrier and the ball
you use your knowledge of rugby, the style being played, the strategies
and tactics being used then form an opinion about what is likely to
Much depends on how well you read the game. Read it well and you
make accurate predictions about what is going to happen. As a result
you will make good decisions about what you should do next.
More often than not and more often than other players, you will be where
you're needed at the right moment. You will back up the ball carrier, catch the
high ball or be in position to make the last ditch, try saving tackle.
Coaches, players, spectators read the game
Coaches and special players are reading the game at a higher level. They
are aware of the ebb and flow of the game, monitoring the overall strategies
and tactics being used and how successful they are.
As a coach or experienced player you do this because the information can be used
to affect the results of games. You monitor periods of play, weigh up what went on
and assess the relative performance of the two teams. From this information you know
what`s working and what`s not working and act to correct problems or press home
Knowledgable spectators enjoy reading the game because it increases the
excitement of the spectacle. You feel more a part of the action if you
understand what is going on and why.
What helps in reading the game
You know you are good at reading the game when what you think will happen next
often or usually happens! To do it you need knowledge and experience.
You will be good at reading the game when
you are able to take in the field positions of all the other
players on the field - in a flash!
you are familiar with player positions and responsibilities
you are knowledgable and/or skillful in facets of the game like passing,
kicking, evasion, moves
you understand that pressure can result in errors of judgement and
errors in performing skills
You put yourself in the position of the ball carrier. You must know
what options are available. The more skillful and knowledgable you are the more
likely you will make predictions correctly.
How you improve your game reading skills
It`s the same old story - practice. But how do you practice?
I suggest you do it by watching recordings of games. You don`t get a perfect
view of what is going on, but it`s good enough. And you can pause it and rewind!
Deliberately choose to watch videos or tapes of games that you`ve not seen
before. That way you don`t know how the game unfolds. Watch the game critically.
Use the pause button and rewind to study what takes place.
When there is a breakdown in play, a set piece or a restart,
look to see how the players line up. At other times look at running angles.
does it look as though the ball will be kept in the forwards or
given to the backs
where are the backs positioned
is either team under pressure, desperate to defend or
desperate to get points
are they aligned to run and receive passes or chase kicks
are any players in an unusual place in relation to the others - it may
indicate they are about to execute a planned move
is any player bustling to take a quick penalty, is anyone doing anything
other than paying attention
are players running straight or across field, will support be there
when they need it, will players cramped for room change their
Pause the action and make a prediction about what will happen. If your prediction
is incorrect, go back and play it again. See if you can detect the reason(s)
that the game unfolded as it did.
Play may differ from what you predict but you can`t see why. Could it be the
player panicked, was tired, took their eye off the ball? Could it be a poor pass
made it necessary to kick? Rewind. See if you can pick up something to explain it.
Perhaps they`re just not as good as you are at weighing up the options!
What you do with your new reading skills
As a player you`ll find you are a step ahead. You plug holes in defence. You provide
the vital support at just the right moment. You always seem to be there to
receive the kick.
As a spectator you`ll be more involved. You`ll feel more of the tension and
excitement. It will be more like actually playing.
After I`ve watched games normally I really enjoy watching them in this way as well.
You learn a lot.
Then take it up a level. Become more aware of how the game is going overall.
Know what the opposition has been doing and how well you have been at
countering it. Know how your team has been playing and how the other team
If you enjoy it, practice at this higher level so that, when necessary, you
will be able to point out what`s happening and what your team needs to do
to come out winners.