Stick to your position instead of switching frequently (unless you're new because you need to find the right position first). You will never make a good player if suddenly you move from prop to center. Each position has its own requirements and needs, and you won't become a better player if you switch positions just as you're learning one of them well.
You should, however, have a basic understanding of each of your teammate's positions. Rugby is a fluid, fast game, and you can best support your teammates if you know what they're trying to do.
If you're uncomfortable with your role on the field, check out diagrams of each position and its role.
Play as a unit, not as a superstar or a hero. Do not try to be a hero, just play the game and do what your position is designed to do. There are 30 players on the field at any time in a game of rugby — making it nearly impossible for one player to try and win the game on their own. Successful rugby teams are filled with players who know their role and stick to it.
Each position is designed to compliment the others. If you decide you want to start rucking as a scrum-half, you may win a few more lose balls. Your fly-half, however, will lose the connection that gets him the ball, effectively destroying your offense.
Everyone will leave position occasionally for a tackle or run. The key is choosing your moment wisely — will you be putting your team at a disadvantage by leaving?
Support your team's runs by staying diagonally behind the ball carrier. If your teammate is on a run, the best place to be is a few yards behind them and a few yards to their side. This makes you a viable, legal passing target at all times. If someone is already there, set up alongside them, providing a quick passing outlet should they get the ball. The best teams set up these small diagonal passing lines almost instantly.
If there is already a small line of players, stay just behind them, ready to ruck if one goes down, or take a short offload pass as they're falling.
Keep your head up and scanning at all times, even in tackles. The best way to improve your on-field intelligence is to keep tabs on everything. Are you in line with your teammates? Are the opponents overloading more people on one side of the field for an attack? You should keep your head up on tackles too — watching the contact the whole time to safely place your head and adjust to defenders.
Grab any loose ball you see, or fall on it and place it for a ruck.
Are you in step with your teammates? Make sure your lines are tight and there are no holes.
Make ball possession your first priority. In rugby, any team can grab possession at almost any time, and offense switches to defense on the fly. This makes it much more crucial to hold onto the ball, tiring the other team on defense until a good scoring opportunity arises. While all good teams take occasional risks, the majority of their efforts are spent keeping the ball.
If you don't have any support, slow down and wait for it. You can keep the ball in the ruck a little longer while your team catches up, or skip out on a risky run up the sideline until you have someone to pass to or ruck for you.
Only make passes you know will connect. If you don't have a good pass, simply go into contact, let your teammates ruck, and reset.
Don't be worried if you go 3-4 plays without gaining a lot of ground. Being on defense is much more tiring than offense, and you'll expose a hole eventually.
Know when to commit to a ruck and when to set up outside. Beginners often aren't sure when they should join the ruck, and will often either jump into every single ruck they find or never join in at all. Knowing when to bind on and help your team can be tough to decide, but there are some guidelines:
If you're winning a ruck as a team, don't join in. Similarly, if you've already lost or almost lost a ruck, get out of there and defend the rest of the field.
If you see a teammate get tackled there are more defenders than teammates, get over quickly in order to defend possession.
If you're near a stalemating ruck, throw yourself in to turn the tide.
Scrum-halfs and fly-halfs, with a few exceptions (losing a crucial ruck, the only player near enough to join) should stay out of most rucks — they are too essential for organizing the offense and defense to be rucking.
Commit to every ruck, tackle and play with full confidence. The biggest hurdle for most beginner rugby players isn't a skill, idea, or trick — it's confidence. While confidence factors into all sports, in rugby the knowledge that you can take a hit (or hit an opponent) and be okay is not something everyone is born with. It takes time to get used to the physicality of rugby. However, the ability to give it your all, and not to slow down or loosen up before contact, will actually make you safer in the long run.
Gain confidence by tacking hits in practice. Start at 50% speed, or by tackling from your knees, and gradually work up to full contact.
Think of going through an opponent, not at him. Keep your feet moving at all times to drive through tackles and rucks with ease.
Mentally prepare yourself for games and hits. Remind yourself that you've done this before, and that playing soft or trying to avoid contact will just lead to more injuries.
Watch Professional Rugby, focusing on your position. Watch any team that you like, from the best teams in the world like South Africa, Australia and New Zealand to the premier club teams in England, France, New Zealand and Australia. Watch out for several thing in particular:
Where is your position on defense? Where are they on offense?
How does each team dictate the pace of the game? When they attack, do they go wide or jam big players up the gut?
When and where are the appropriate times to kick?
When is it best to try a last-minute pass and when is it best to just go down?
Keep your spine straight on rucks, tackles, and scrums. One of the biggest improvements you can make playing rugby is your technique. The best players use their bodies efficiently, wringing out every ounce of energy to gain an advantage over the opponent. One of the best things you can do, in almost any situation, is flatten your back. Not only is a curved spine dangerous, it cuts your power down significantly. There are several ways to work on proper back technique:
Keep your butt down by bending at the knees and waist, not through your back.
Never let your head and shoulders dip below your hips.
Do a low-key rucking or scrumming drill, then lock in your “driving” position. Stay in place and have a teammate place a ball horizontally on the small of your back. It should not roll off.
Learn to run effectively with the ball anywhere on the field. Rugby is much more fluid than football, so you don't want to keep the ball locked up under your arm like a running back. Instead, you need to adapt your hold depending on the situation:
General Play: Hold the ball with your fingertips right near the center of your chest, with the point facing up. This allows you to quickly pass , fake or kick in any direction.
Under Pressure / Being Tackled: Grip the ball horizontally with both hands and forearms. Your left forearm is on the top of the ball, your left hand gripping the right end, and your right forearm is on the bottom of the ball, with your right hand gripping the left point. This is for the moment you know you'll be tackled or someone tries to steal the ball, and is usually used by forwards.
Open Field: Tuck the ball into the crook of your elbow, gripping it with one hand. This gives you plenty of speed and mobility for a one-on-one or open field run. As you get tackled, you place your other hand over the ball to protect it, turning away from the tackler.
Learn how to get tackled. With all the focus on “huge hits” and the best tackling form, many players forget how often they are the ones getting hit. Learning to take a tackle well helps your team win more rucks, helps you gain ground on a defender, and protects you from injuries.
Turn the ball away from the defender. As you approach, pick a side to run at and turn the ball away, lowering your shoulder slightly towards the opponent.
Keep moving your feet forward. This might seem terrifying, but you want your momentum running through him, not the other way around. The player that eases up or slows down is almost always the one who gets hurt.
Fall “in order.” You should hit the ground first with your knees, then hips, then shoulders to distribute your weight when you fall.
Place the ball back towards your team. You have 1-2 seconds after going down to place the ball, so do your team a solid and reach back. Remember that any defender is going to need to step over you to get the ball, so placing it far back gives your team crucial time to run.
Ensure that you can throw accurately to both sides. You want, at a minimum to make a 10 yard pass to either side of you, hitting your teammate in the chest every time. The only way to get there is to practice, so make sure you spend time every single day throwing a rugby ball to both sides.
Spiral or spinning passes are great, but unless you're accurate the beauty of your spin doesn't matter.
Execute perfect offloads as you take tackles. The offload is when you pop the ball up to teammate as you're going down, allowing them to dodge your tackler and keep running. Most beginners are told not to offload, and for good reason: it is very easy to make a terrible pass while you're being pulled violently to the ground. However, as you get better you'll notice how often the pros offload, keeping a run alive and slowly chipping past the defense. To perfect the offload–
Ensure that your teammate is ready for the ball my making eye contact with them.
Do not spin the ball, it is too difficult under pressure. Instead, use a a short, quick 1-3 yard “pop” to toss the ball to them.
If you're in doubt, go into contact. If you don't think you can pull the pass off, or if a 2nd defender is coming in, just take the tackle. Remember– possession is more important than on good run.
Whenever possible, receive and throw the ball while moving forward. You do not want to be caught standing in rugby, as this is the easiest way to get lit up with a huge hit. You want your passes to lead your teammates so that they can keep their momentum up as they catch, and you want to be in full stride when your catch the ball. This keeps the defense guessing your movement, makes you more painful to tackle, and helps your team gain ground quickly. Once you can pass accurately, you need to learn to pass accurately on the run. A line of 4 players, running and passing simultaneously, is very difficult to contain, especially if you can “swing” the ball from one pass to the other.
Adjust your grip on the ball as you catch it.
Drop the ball towards normal hip-height for a throw.
Open your hips up towards the direction you're passing.
Swing the ball across your body, pointing with your hips.
Follow through with both hands pointing at the target.
Practice your position-specific skills in your own time after practice. Each position is different, and the best rugby players carve out extra time to get better at their specialty. Spend 10-15 minutes after practice working on your skills. If you don't know what to work on, ask your coach.
Kickers should hit penalties for at least 10 minutes every day, from all points on the field.
Forwards can hit the scrum sled, focusing on their scrum, ruck, and tackling technique.
Fly-halfs and backs should work on kick and catching punts.
Push yourself as hard as possible in drills, scrimmages, and practice. Rugby requires full body strength, and the best way to develop your strength is simply by playing rugby. This activates you muscles the way they need to activate in a game, but you won't get the benefits if you're only giving 50% at practice. Rugby practice should be your fitness every day you go, and you should be prepared to give it all each drill to grow stronger.
Know how to train for your position. Each player on the field needs a slightly different toolkit in order to succeed. While every player should be able to run for at least 80 minutes and have good overall muscle mass, training to play prop is very different from training to play wing. Though each position has it's own needs, in general you can group training schedules by backs and forwards:
All Players: Core exercises, endurance training, strong quads, butt, and back.
Backs: Should focus on sprint training, being able to run near top speed even towards the ends of games. Strength training is imperative, but not so much that you lose speed and mobility.
Forwards: Need to focus on strength and mass. Bigger people make a bigger impact in the scrum and on rucks, and are harder to take down or get through. More of a forward's time is going to be in the weight room than the a back's.
Focus on interval training to build endurance. A rugby game is a constant ebb and flow — sprint, jog, ruck, rest, jog, walk, recover (penalty call!), scrum, etc. While long, 3-5 mile runs are fine for general endurance, rugby players will get more out of interval training. Intervals are when you alternate short, high-energy sprints with jogging and walking. Some good routines to start with might be:
Sprint the try-line, then jog up the sideline to the other end. Sprint that try-line too, and repeat 5x. Rest and do it once more. Add an extra lap each day you train, or add the half-field or 22-meter lines into the mix.
Run at 80% top speed for 30 seconds, then jog for a minute. Repeat 10 times. As you get better, decrease your jogging time until you are at only 30 seconds.
Run up a set of stairs, then lightly jog done. Rest for 10 seconds at the bottom, then repeat.
Mix in push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, and burpees (A push-up followed immediately by a jumping jack) during your jogs. Stop, perform the exercise for 30 seconds, then immediately keep jogging.
Develop a total-body weight lifting program. Running, tackling, driving, jumping, throwing, diving — a rugby player needs to be strong enough for almost any physical activity imaginable. This makes strength training a major part of any serious rugby player's schedule. While you should work with a coach or trainer to develop a routine for you and your position (a scrum-half, after all, should not be as bulky as a prop), there are a few exercises every rugby player should do. All of these exercises activate multiple muscles, meaning that you can even do them 1-2 per week in season to stay strong.
Add plyometrics and body-weight exercies to your workouts for explosive speed and power. Plyometrics are bounding, jumping, and other explosive workouts. You usually do them with high-reps, getting your body used to the types of movements it would make in a game. What's more, you can often do these workouts without the aid of a gym. Focus on doing enough reps so that the last 5 of every set are difficult — this is when you make the most gains.
Try bounding, which is when you “run” 30 meters while keeping yourself in the air (both feet off the ground) for as much time as possible.
Use planks and body holds to strengthen your core. Your core is where you transfer energy from your top half to your bottom, and this sort of power is essential to turn the drive of your legs into a successful tackle with your arms. Try out:
Cross train with other sports to build total body muscle. The English National Rugby Team has wrestling and judo coaches on staff, as the sport helps safely develop the grappling strength needed in mauls, rucks and tackles. Try out:
Swimming sports, like water polo. Swimming uses your whole body with minimal pressure on your joints.
Biking and running. They are essential for total endurance, and hill-sprints build valuable butt and quad muscles needed to drive back opponents.
Rock climbing. Scrambling effectively up a wall requires coordination, fine motor control, and serious leg and forearm strength that will make you more effective on runs and tackles.