Rugby Program


 Ashley Jones

 Common Injuries/PrevalenceGarraway et al (2000) concluded in a study of professional rugby players, that an injury occurred for every 59 minutes of play and that the majority of injuries were to the knee, hip and thigh.  In a New Zealand study (Bird et al, 1998), the injury rate was cited as 10.9 injuries per 100 player games.

The lower limb was most injured both in games and during practice, with the most frequently occurring types of injuries, sprains and strains.  It is interesting to note that more injuries occurred during practice rather than games.  In games, the tackle was the most common game event to lead to an injury taking place.  Foul play accounted for 13% of all injuries from this study.

The results of this study contrast sharply with an earlier (Lewis et al, 1996) analysis of injury.  They concluded that rucking produced the greatest number of injuries for men and youths while the tackle was the instrument of the game causing more injuries for women.  Foul play accounted for 33% of injuries for men but only 17% and 19% for women and youths.

An interesting study (Watson, 1995) on injuries in football from a posture and mechanics perspective, gives excellent insight into the effectiveness of a prescreening procedure linked to an individualised prehabilitation training program.  The results of the two year study showed that players who suffered ankle injuries had a lower mean score for ankle mechanics than those who remained injury free.  Knee injuries correlated very highly with lumbar lordosis and sway back.  Whilst those players suffering back injuries were associated with poor shoulder symmetry, scapulae abduction, back asymmetry and spiral malalignments such as kyphosis lordosis and scoliosis.  The study concludes by suggesting than “an intervention to improve body mechanics would be likely to reduce the incidence of sports injuries in football”.

Prevention/Minimisation Strategies

Musculoskeletal screening of all players and an individualised prehabilitation training program designed for year round use.

Adherence to a year round strength and conditioning program.

Vigilance of officials to foul play and severe penalties for instigators of foul play.

Education of players for the laws of the game.

Increased refereeing at the tackle and ruck/maul.

Use of protective gear at practice and especially during games.

Ensure selection of players for specific positions is based around the knowledge and experience of the player having played in the position and having the body type to fill the demands of the position.

In unit games depower the scrum engagement, use of under 19 law may be:
“Front row coming together.  Each prop touches the opponents upper arm and then pause before the front rows meet.  The sequence should be crouch, touch, pause, engage”.

Or pack uncontested scrums to minimise any injury potential.

Strength & Conditioning

1.  Warm Up – Dynamic Movement Drills

Work through this list of exercises and perform the movement over 22 metres where applicable or for 15 repetitions each leg, prior to performing the movements move around at a progressively quicker pace for 5 minutes.

High knees

Heels to butt

Back pedal

Basketball defensive slide, both directions

Lunge walk

Russian soldier walk

Power skip

Hamstring walk

Fast fee with arm drive

A/B march

Standing legs swings

– forward and back

– side to side

2.  Jump Training for Wingers/Fullback and Lineout Jumpers

The loading phase of each jump should be as brief as possible.  Every jump should emphasise a vigorous thrusting up of the arms.  Time will simply be wasted if your effort is not maximal.  Rest between 1 and 2 minutes between sets and initially perform 1 set of 4 different exercises for 10 repetitions per set, a total of 40 contacts.  Increase this by 10 contacts per week until you are at 100 contacts per workout, do not exceed 100 contacts per workout.  You should do the jump workout twice per week after you have completed the dynamic warm up drills above and before any other training.

Vertical jumps

One step forward and vertical jump

One step backward and vertical jump

One step sideways and vertical jump

Bench blasts – one foot is on a workout bench and the other is on the floor, push off high into the air and alternate foot position on landing.

Iso squat jump – hold a static quarter squat position for 10secs and then vertical jump from that position.

Forward and back jumps over a line progressing to a low box

Side to side jumps over a line progressing to a small box

Tuck jumps – bring knees to chest not chest to knees

Explosion jumps onto a box

Repeat jumps over hurdles or onto boxes or a combination

Lateral jumps over hurdles or onto boxes or a combination

Patter hops or jumps (5 dot drill)

Repeat standing long jumps for distance or speed

Standing triple jumps

3.  Strength Training

The CARE Program (Core Abdominal Rehab Exercises)

As everyone connected to sport realises the first function of the strength and conditioning coach is to minimise the risk of injury. From this principle evolved the CARE program.  As in any contact/collision sport there is an inherent risk in participation.  Injuries to all major joints are possible.  Some of the mechanics of the injury make them impossible to prevent, but with adherence to an overall conditioning program, they may be minimised.

CARE Program Example

1-3 sets x 15 reps or for time

4 way neck/rotary neck

Rotator cuff – external and internal – multi position

Rhomboid shrugs for scapular retraction

Grip exercises

Kneeling Swiss ball balance

Seated pelvic movements on Swiss ball

Transverse abdominis – bracing with medicine ball

Balance board push ups

Balance board single leg balance

Balance board squat

Nautilus hip and back

Multi directional lunge

Split squat feet on foam noodles


Reverse hypers

The FAST Program (Functional Athletic Strength Training)

Variety is the key in the FAST program, variation in exercises, load, sets, reps are all essential for long term progress.  Anyone can increase their strength, when they are just starting out its easy, the longer a person has been training the rate of progress slows to be increasing at a decreasing rate.

FAST Program Example

Whole Body

Power Clean


Back Squat

Hamstring/Lower Back

Glute Ham Raise

Upper Body Pull

Hammer Row

Upper Body Push

Bench Press

Strongman Classic

Farmers Walk

 As for sets and repetitions the tables below give you the weekly variations, for someone who has only just started training use Table 2 and do only categories 2-5 and do 2 exercises for each category. If you have over 2 years of regular training use the entire list of exercises and you can commence on Table 2 or spend a few weeks on Table 2 before commencing Table 1.

Table 1: Maximal Strength


Sets x Reps


4 x 5


2 x 5, 3 x 3


5 x 5, 4, 3, 2, 1


3 x 6 @ 60%

Table 2: Hypertrophy/Assistance


Sets x Reps


3 x 10


4 x 8


4 x 6


2 x 15 @ 60% in circuit style

 4.  Metabolic Training (MT)

MTI 3 x 30 minutes per week:  Walk briskly for 5 minutes before and after you run.  Keep your heart rate between 160 and 180 beats per minute.  Aim to cover between 4 and 7 kilometres in this time.  Out and back runs are good, where you run out on a course for 15 minutes and then turn and head back to the starting point.  During the run, after the first few weeks, add 20 by 5-30 seconds bursts of speed.  These runs are great on golf courses, forests trails, beaches if possible.

MT2 Golf Course Fartlek Run: After a general warm up you run the golf course ensuring the following speeds, jog the par 5’s, 3/4 pace the par 4’s and sprint the par 3’s. Walk from the green to the next tee as recovery.

MT3 Rugby Suicides:  Starting on a try line sprint to the 22 metre line and jog back to try line immediately, turn and sprint to half way line, turn and job back to try line, immediately turn and sprint to far 22 metre line, turn and job back to try line, immediately turn and sprint to far try line, turn around and job back to try line.  This is one repetition.  Perform 6-8 repetitions with a 1:0.5 work:recovery system.

MT4 Coathangers: Start at the junction of the half way line and the sideline, sprint around goal post the sprint the length of the field around the other goal post and return to the starting position.  This is one repetition.  Perform 6-8 repetitions with a 1:05 work:recovery system.

MT5 Repetition Sprints:  Sprint 5 x 22 metres as fast as possible with a walk back recovery between repetitions and then rest actively for 3-5 minutes before next set.  Sprint 5 x 10 metres as fast as possible with a walk back recovery between repetitions and then rest actively for 3-5 minutes before next set.  Sprint 5 x 78 metres as fast as possible with a walk back recovery between repetitions and then rest actively for 3-5minutes before next set.  Sprint 5 x 100 metres as fast as possible with a walk back recovery between repetitions and then rest actively for 3-5 minutes before next set.

 Metabolic Training Schedule






2 x MT1


3 x MT1


2 x MT1, 1 x MT2, 1 x MT3



1 x MT1, 1 x MT2, 1 x MT3


1 x MT1, 1 x MT2, 2 x MT3


1 x MT2, 1 x MT3, 1 x MT4,

1 x MT5



1 x MT1 or 2, 1 x MT3 or 4,

1 x MT5


2 x MT2 or 3 or 4, 1 x MT5


Forwards – 1 x MT1 or 2, 2 x MT3 or 4, 1 x MT5

Backs – 2 x MT3 or 4, 2 x MT5

5.  In Season Speed/Power/Conditioning Workout

Dynamic Warm Up

As per #1 – 10 minutes.

Lower Body Power

Leg drive drill against fence 3 x 10 each leg or for 10 seconds

Horse driving drill in partners 5 repetitions each

Pull for 20 metres then release for 20 metres (alternate)

Pushing contest in partners 5 repetitions each

Push for 20 metres then release for 20 metres (alternate)

Crossover side lunges – standing in balanced athletic position (on balls of fee knees slightly bent with hands up in front of body) pivot on left foot and crossover lunge with right leg and then repeat in other direction for 3 sets of 10 repetitions each side

Double leg hurdle jumps or long jumps 3 x 10 repetitions or select 4 exercises from jump training and do 40-60 contacts per workout.


Back pedal and turn 10 metres and then 10 metres repeat x 6

Slide L/R and then sprint forward 5 metre left slide then 5 metres right then sprint forwards for 10 metres.

Pro Agility man on man – facing each other 1 metre apart, 1 player turns and sprints to a cone 5 metres away then to a cone 10 metres and then back to start, other player has to react to partner and race him to the finish.

Walk into sprint 3-5 repetitions of each of the following distance with a walk back recovery in between and 5 minutes active rest between sets.

Goal line to 22 metres (22m), goal line to half way line (50M), goal line to far 22 metres (78m).

Tempo Conditioning
10 x 100 metres @ 80% of maximum with an exercise performed upon completion of each run for set time and a passive rest for a set time eg 100m in 20 seconds then 20 seconds push ups then 20 seconds rest.

Warm Down
Stretching for 10 minutes all major muscle groups particularly glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, groin and hip flexors.

6.  Flexibility

A total body flexibility program is essential to ensure that the muscles are at optimal length to produce force and also so that body parts are free to move through a complete range.  This alone will improve your speed of movement.  Before you train do the active drills to get your body moving and when you finish at session spend 10 minutes stretching the major muscles particularly the glutes, quadriceps/hip flexors, hamstrings and lower back.  This is as important as a set of any strength exercises or a sprint session, don’t skip it.


Garraway W M, A J Lee, S J Hutton, E B Russell and D A MacLeod
Impact of Professsionalism on Injuries in Rugby
British Journal of Sports Medicine 34(5) Oct 2000, 348-351

Bird Y N, A E Waller, S W Marshall, J C Alsop, D J Chalmers and D F Gerrard
The New Zealand Rugby Injury and Performance Project: Epidemiology of a Season of Rugby Injury
British Journal of Sports Medicine 32(4) Dec 1998, 319-325

Lewish E R and K P George
An Initial Investigation of Injuries in Women, Men and Youths Playing Rugby Union Football at the Same Club
Sports Exercise and Injury 2(4) Nov 1996, 186-191

Watson A W S
Sports Injuries in Footballers Related to Defects of Posture and Body Mechanics
Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 35(4) Dec 1995, 289-294

Rugby Laws of the Game 2001
Under 19 Variations, p146

Ashley Jones

Ashley Jones specialist in the physical preparation of rugby athletes. He has worked with professional sports teams that include Sydney Kings, Newcastle Knights, Parramatta Eels, Northern Eagles, Crusaders, New Zealand All Blacks, and Australian Wallabies. Irish by Ancestry, Australian by Birth, Japanese by Accident and a Kiwi by Choice.

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