The Selection Method – Steps 6 to 10

By | July 18, 2017

Step Six – Selection Responsibilities

Once the players have been ranked they can be categorized into three groups – “in”, “out” and “unsure”.

•  The “in” players are those who will definitely be in the team.
•  The “out” players are those who will definitely not be in the team.
•  The “unsure” players are those who the selectors are unsure of and who will be competing with each other to make the team.

This method enables the selectors to concentrate on the last group, the “unsure” players. Their task is now more manageable and selecting can become more specific.

The head selector will now be able to delegate responsibility to members of the panel.

The player requirements will now become very specific so that the minor differences between players of equal calibre can be identified.

Step Seven – Attitude

Players competing for a position may be of equal ability. The strengths and weaknesses of a player may be matched by different strengths and weaknesses of another. Selection in these circumstances will be based on which player fulfills the demands of the Game Plan.

But if the players still offer equal ability, the final criteria should be attitude. Even within this category are a number of criteria e.g.

•  Commitment
•  Determination
•  Composure
•  Reliability
•  Concentration
•  Persistence
•  Compatibility
•  Initiative

Selectors will know the value they may place on each of these. The emphasis should reflect what the team in that position needs. This will vary from position to position. However, it is likely that the attitude criteria for a position will be similar, if not the same.

Step Eight – Intuition

It is at this stage after the situation has been thoroughly analyzed in a systematic way that the selectors’ intuition becomes important.

We are dealing with a situation that involves people who are not robots. Because of this no selection can be entirely correct or entirely wrong. In a competitive situation the reaction of players will vary from match to match.

After watching players for a long time, the selector will develop a feeling for the play of the player. The final selection will be based on the selector backing this feeling.

Step Nine – The Team Profile

The use of the word “team” is misleading because the profile includes all the playing talent that is available. However, because the processes of developing a profile is the same as that used in the Game Planning Course the term Team Profile will be used

From the total pool of players available the Principles of Play in both attack and defence are used to categorize strengths and weaknesses. A Team Profile Analysis Form is used for this purpose. Implied is knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of the individual players who are available.

This knowledge shall be written down in an individual profile for each player i.e. each players strengths and weaknesses. The profile should be as detailed as possible. Time spent on details in these first steps will ensure that the conclusions arrived at in later steps are accurate.

Step Ten – Game Profile

Once the Team Profile is completed the Game Profile can be written.

The Game Profile explains what the team is to achieve to meet its outcome, performance and process goals.

The patterns of play explain how they are going to do it.

In a broad sense the game profile is a mission statement for what the team aims to achieve in attack and defence.

In attack these are further broken down into backs, forwards and the team and these are further broken down into each having these in the zones down the field sometimes called the red, orange and green zones.

In defence the game profile is also for backs, forwards and the team however experience has shown that these can be applied throughout the length of the field.

The defensive game profile can be broken down further into defence from the major sources of possession:

•  Kick-off receipts
•  Scrums
•  Lineouts
•  Post tackle
•  Ruck
•  Maul
•  Turnovers from play in contact
•  Turnovers from kick receipts

There will be an attacking Game Profile and a defensive Game Profile. Both can be further sub-divided based on field position and / or the positioning of the opposing players.

The Game Profile (what is to be achieved) can now be used to develop Patterns of Play and Game Plan, both of which explain how the Game Profile is to be achieved. These provide the selectors with the criteria for selection that they will use when observing players.

Implied in the Game Profile are the strengths and weaknesses of opposing teams. While these are important, it is important to be positive. The Game Profile and the Patterns of Play explain what and how the team will achieve its aims throughout the season. They are, therefore, what the team is aiming to achieve throughout its matches. Weaknesses should not be dwelled upon.  Teams should enter matches aiming to do what they do best.

If so much emphasis is placed on the strengths and weaknesses of individual teams, the team will not develop its own style of play. In these circumstances each match will be a “one-off” situation in which a team finds itself continually changing in reaction to opponents.

The aim should be to develop a proactive Game Profile and proactive Patterns of Play that a team imposes positively on opponents. Game plans are a change of emphasis within the Patterns of Play rather than playing to a different Pattern of Play for each match.

The Selection Method

By | May 15, 2017

The steps that should be followed when selecting a team will first be listed. Following this each step will be explained in turn. Bear in mind that the order may not suit all selecting environments and you may want to re-arrange the steps but this makes the steps no less valid, it is just the rugby environment that has changed.
It will be divided in 2 to cover 2 months of the newsletter.

Part 1 Steps 1-5

The selection method is based on the following logical order of steps:

  1. Selection Meetings.
  2. Positional Requirements.
  3. Priorities, Co-ordination and Consistency.
  4. Observing Games.
  5. Analysis of Players.
  6. Selection Responsibilities.
  7. Attitude.
  8. Intuition.
  9. Team Profile.
  10. Game Profile.

Before we explain the nature of selection meetings a word about the compatibility of selectors/ coaches.

In some unions these roles may be separate. It is very difficult to coach a team when the coach has not had a part in its selection. For this reason the coaches must also be selectors.

This does not mean that additional selectors should be chosen and there is a place for informal selectors. These are those who have an “eye” for a player generally but more likely a player in a given position. These are “mates” whose opinion is valued in scouting for players but who will not be included in discussions for the final selection of the squad.

If there is disagreement it is the head coach who will make the final decision. A majority vote is not the way to select a player, as this will leave some selector/ coaches disgruntled and with players they may not want. However this situation seldom occurs. It is better to prolong the discussion to come to a consensus rather than selection by a ballot.

Secondly the coaches must be compatible but this does not mean that there is not robust discussion and disagreement so long as the focus is on getting the best selection. In fact it can be beneficial for a coach, probably the head coach, to act as the devil’s advocate and oppose to make the others justify their opinion.

Under these circumstances the key is the confidentiality of what takes place in meetings and the unity of the coach/ selectors once they have left the “war room”.

We all know examples of players being given different views when they speak to the selectors. Often this is about their non-selection. Any player worthy of his/ her status should approach the selectors and they must be able to tell him/ her “Why?” with a common voice. This should be couched in terms of what deficiencies the player has and what needs to be done to regain their position along with a programme for the player’s improvement.

Selectors will find that when they are unified, truthful and approachable they will enhance team spirit while, if they don’t have these qualities this will lead to team disunity and dissension.

Step One – Selection Meetings

Regular selection meetings are essential to monitor the development of players. These meetings should follow a common agenda so that the process remains the same while the content will change.

There are two types of selection meeting those that take place prior to the selection of the team and those that take place once the team has been selected.

Pre-Selection Meetings
The pre-selection meetings should be used to:

  1. Use Functional Roles Analysis and Key factor Analysis to establish Positional Requirements.
  2. Come to a consensus of the positional requirements to ensure Co-ordination and Consistency.
  3. Establish a process that will ensure games are observed from a selection point of view and not from a coaching point of view.

This will enable players to be placed by position in rank order and this will be reviewed throughout the season. The selectors now have a starting point for selection.

Considerable time should be spent discussing the merits of individual players before ranking them. This ranking should be reviewed at each meeting that follows. Changes must be justified.

These meetings have two further functions. The first is to categorize the players into the “in”, “out” and “unsure” groups. The second is to identify players who need to be watched more frequently because the selectors have insufficient current information about them.

At trials use positional selectors. Ask them to place the players in their position in rank order and give their reasons for the ranking. They must be prepared to be questioned by the selectors about their rankings.

They will be able to focus on positional weaknesses. This may force them to select beyond the initial group of players, to cast their net wider.

Post Selection Meetings
Post selection meetings are those that take place after the team has been selected. They are therefore meetings that take place during the teams playing season. They will usually take place as soon as possible after a match to select the teams for the next match. It may not be possible to spend time discussing rankings each week. In fact this may lead to erratic selections that will prevent the team establishing its patterns of play as a unit. Ranking meetings should be scheduled to take place less frequently but regularly.

At meetings between each game it is most important to know of injuries to players and to make a realistic assessment of the injury. The player should return to play only after total rehabilitation. It is equally important to ensure that the player is following a course of treatment that will ensure a return to play as soon as possible. The selectors should receive progress reports of the player’s situation.

When teams are being selected it is important to justify changes to the initially selected teams. For a change to be made the replacement player must have been consistently better than the incumbent. If this is not the case and a change made and the change is unsuccessful, two players will have had their confidence affected and the performance of the team will have been detrimentally affected.


Step Two – Positional Requirements

Positional requirements will be based on the player’s choice of the appropriate functional role and the performance of the role based on the key factors for the role that will lead to it being performed successfully. This will cover the skills and decision-making ability of the players, which are the core of the game.

The functional role may be position specific but in the modern game players have to be multi-skilled performing a growing list of functional roles they hold in common and a diminishing list of roles they specialize in.

Once the functional roles have been agreed to they should be placed in order of priority so that it is first things first, second things second and so on.

In addition there is little point in selecting to an ideal list of functional roles for each position as, on the one hand, there may not be players in the pool you are selecting from who meet the criteria while on the other hand you may have a talented pool of players amongst who you can assume all will have a number of functional roles in common. This will allow the selectors to identify a more advanced list of functional roles for the players.

If the union has the resources further criteria can be used in the areas of strength and conditioning, mental skills and self-management but these are of secondary importance. Should players be of equal ability these criteria are very useful.


Step Three – Priorities, Co-ordination and Consistency

It may be worthwhile when selecting to have a prioritized order of selecting. This order would state what should be the first priority, second priority and so on.

Selecting to a Game Plan using the ranking system based on positional requirements to meet the Game Plan directs the selection panel to its own list of priorities. While the priorities for selection must always be subjective, the following may be useful for selectors in determining their own:

Selection Criteria (in order of priority)

1.  Players with points scoring ability.
2.  Players with possession winning ability.
3.  Player Decision-making:
• Players who can play to a plan and perform the options made available within the plan.
• Players who know when and how to change the plan.
4.  Ability to perform basic attacking and defensive skills.

Whatever method is used, the most important element of any selection method is consistency amongst the selectors.

So that the Game develops within a national union, a provincial union, a club or a school, the selection policy must reflect the Game Profile that has been developed. Consistency is therefore the most important priority in ensuring the Game develops.

For this reason it may be necessary to meet with all coaches and selectors and some players to work together on the Game Plan. By involving all in the formation of the Game Plan they will feel committed to it. They must all be made to feel that they are part of the whole and not a number of parts belonging to individual teams.


Step Four – Observing Games

Note: Positional requirements and functional roles and their key factors are one and the same thing.

When selectors are watching players they must be constantly referring to the positional requirements. This task is different from coaching. The selectors are watching individual players. They should not be distracted from this by watching the match as a whole. This takes considerable discipline.

Experience has shown that individual players should be watched constantly for up to 10 minutes. This would seem to be the minimum period. The selector must be able to observe play away from the ball as well as play when the player is directly involved in using, retaining or regaining the ball. This is more important for some positions than others.

When a selector is watching a player the positional requirements are a checklist to categorize information. All information should be recorded. Writing it down may do this, however, play can be missed while this is being done. A better method is to use a Dictaphone. This can be replayed a number of times after the match.

Both written notes and recorded information must be compared to the positional requirements. This ensures that each player for each position is compared using the same criteria.

Selectors should watch players independently. This is to ensure they don’t fall into the trap of supporting each other’s point of view.

A major difficulty when selecting is reducing the number of players being watched so each can be watched for some time. The categorization of players into the “in”, “out” and “unsure” groups achieve this. It enables selectors to concentrate on a limited number. This is a worthwhile method, however problems arise when players take part in trials.

Prior to the naming of trial teams a considerable amount of work will have to be done gathering information on players. In a trial, comparisons can be made between two players competing for the same position. The difficulty is that there are 15 positions, all of which may have to be observed. Clearly this is impossible to do thoroughly. This can be helped by playing against an opposing team that is not in contention for selection. It reduces the number of players to be watched by half, but it is difficult to make comparisons.

At representative level and above, the problem may be solved by increasing the number of selectors for the trials only. The most obvious way would be to have a selector for each position. This would involve eleven selectors. Where there are two players playing in a position there will still be time enough to watch each player for at least 10 minutes. This frees the official selection panel to watch individual players, as they will know that there are selectors covering all positions.

For this to work successfully, the positional selectors have to be briefed in detail about the positional requirements. Once the trial is over a debriefing of the whole group should take place before the official panel is left to make their final selection.

This system works well so long as the positional selectors are well chosen, understand what is required and are disciplined to watch the players rather than the match. When this is first done, all positional selectors may not be able to meet these criteria. However, at each successive trial the standard will improve as they become familiar with what is required. Changes may have to be made before someone who is good at positional selecting is found.


Step Five – Analysis of Players

Once again the standardization of a process must be used to analyze players by way of a player analysis form that covers all criteria for that position.

This will facilitate the ranking of players.

It is very important that the information is accurate as, if it is not, all the remaining steps will be flawed.

The players will therefore be judged by what is needed to be successful.

The player profile forms should be regularly updated. They can be used to follow the player’s progress during the season.

The ranking gives the selectors a “pecking order” should first choices be injured or if more than one team has to be selected from the same pool of players.

The Player Profile form should be dated so that comparisons can be made with profiles at various times during a player’s career. The form can also be the basis of an interview with a player when discussing the players training programme.

The way the game is played

By | April 19, 2017

The early games of the Super Rugby would seem to indicate that we are going to see the continuation of last year’s wars of attrition which were very much the same as the November test window especially the way the All Blacks played. It is a game in which there are extremes in sharing possession with the result bearing no indication of the margin between the teams let alone which team won.


This is made possible by the degree to which the attacking team can retain possession as they commit greater numbers to the post tackle while the defence assists by committing fewer numbers. Most of their players most of the time do not contest the ball but pull back and join the defence line. Just to keep the attack over-committing they throw in a few more every now and then.

Consequently the attack can keep the ball but is unlikely to go forward as there is no space.

Out of anxiety the attack stands flat seeing this as the best opportunity to barge their way over the gain line. What they should realize is that, not having momentum, the do not threaten the defence.

An attacking line coming from depth: with penetrators coming from further depth and off the playmaker’s shoulder with the ball carrier seeking to offload, would do this.

The ball carriers do get some momentum if the defence has not reloaded, especially if they risk offside coming from a standing start.

The greater number of defenders available to complete the tackle compensates for this lack of defensive momentum.

If they are able to make a dominant tackle there is an incentive to counter ruck but as always, the tackle and the jackal both are subject to infringement and the risk of penalty more on the part of the defensive team than the attacking team.

So why does the attack accept this?

Where are the strategies that draw the defence into the tackle and post tackle?

Where are the strategies from the set piece, where there are fewer defenders, for the attack line to put the “extra man” or the overlap into space?

Remember these?

And then to support the evading ball carrier to receive an offload in the space the ball carrier has moved the defence away from.

Equally at the breakdown are there not strategies in rugby to create greater pressure before the tackle, in the tackle and post tackle to force the defence to commit to the channel? Thus creating space elsewhere.

I have often said that players are the most conservative people in the game committed to what they know best and the justified democracy with which teams are managed ensures this to be the case.

But when this is repetition based on pure physicality, with games becoming both a war of attrition and a source of frustration and risk taking the game is losing an element of its essential character.

We must surely think there is a better way. We are seeing games being lost by a frustrated attack who take a risk, which leads to a turnover, and counter attack.

What draws the defence in to create space?

A good starting point is to:

  • Spread the attack line;
  • Have it run onto the attacking ball from depth;
  • Show evasive skills as they receive the ball to force a reaction on the defender and as they attempt to penetrate close to the tackler reducing his reaction time.
  • Delay entry off the play maker’s shoulder;
  • Run a line, even an outside-in line, that holds the defence and;
  • Use the evasion to free the hands to offload to close support down the channel.

I did think that the tackle laws were going to help this but the referees, even now, have allowed them to be eroded and the commentators are using their influence by saying “ that head high wasn’t too bad after all the ball carrier ducked into it.”

I believe low tackles will enhance the game and, as a victim of concussion myself, that has stayed with me for 50 years I wonder what it is going to take for the game to clean itself up.

I was at a team practice yesterday and the tackle practice was repetition of the key factors for tackles above the waste and even higher. At one stage the tackler was lifting the ball carrier into the air as the ball carrier jumped into the tackle.

What was obvious was the lack of flexibility and agility these players showed should they go to the ground. They didn’t seem flexible enough to put “shoulder on butt”, go to ground and then use a great player’s adage:

“The tackle is not over until I am on my feet with my hands on the ball.”

Getting back to the style of play why is the risk of the ball not being delivered from a maul such a deterrent?

After all the maul, like the ruck used to be, is a “loose” scrum but with the ball in possession not on the ground.

Let’s look at the structure…

The basic formation is a scrum, then give the hooker the ball in his hands and turn him around. The props can bind as a scrum and even bore in as a wedge. Something that is illegal in the scrum. The ball can be ferried to the #8.The positioning of the rest of the scrum remains the same.

All the players have to get used to is that the position that may not be exactly theirs and it can change from maul to maul depending on when they arrive. In fact the ball carrier may be a back.

The body positions are the same and the number of bodies may vary. What I do know is that the ball is protected and can be moved down the field until the defence commits enough to stop it. When it is released the attack may outnumber the defence. And the ball carrier in the maul may run as the first receiver with the others coming from behind him. The new Laws will enhance this.