We sat down with Jess Bunyard, Head Coach of Women and Girls at Huddersfield RUFC to find out exactly what makes a good rugby player. Jess has plenty of knowledge of the game: alongside her coaching role, she also edits Women’s Rugby Coaching, a magazine specifically created for coaches in the women’s game.

It could be considered cliché to claim that anyone can be a good rugby player, but if a player keeps an open mind, the possibility to grow and develop is definitely there. In my experience, I have found that if players come to training with the right attitude, they stand to gain a whole boat load of benefits from playing rugby.

Rugby as a sport has the potential to be a great influence. Players will learn core values which stick with them for a lifetime and are presented with the opportunity to unlock physical and mental strength they don’t know they possess.

Our sport can come with certain preconceptions, one of which is that you have to be a butch looking lesbian to play rugby and fit in with the crowd. This simply isn’t true; rugby is available to everyone. In the rugby community we embrace being different, the players I have coached have been unique and diverse. Rugby will open its arms to you no matter what your beliefs, the colour of your skin, who you love, or what size you are.

I have coached players who have been small, fast and elusive but I have also coached those who are fearsome, large and dominant on the pitch. Our sport is beautiful because there is a role for everyone: each position is as important as the next on the rugby pitch.

If you’re a smaller size and love to move the ball around in attack, then trying scrum-half or fly-half might be the right fit for you. If you’re larger and power is your asset, then a position in the forwards, such as prop, might be where you feel at home.

As a coach, it is my job to encourage everyone to try skills that may not be typically assigned to their position. This is so everyone develops a broad range of skills – after all, everyone loves it when a prop does a cheeky kick! It also ensures that players develop an understanding of everyone’s role on the pitch. For example, this could mean that a second-row player becomes understanding to the demands a winger might face throughout the game.

Desirable skills in rugby are not limited to the physical aspect alone: believe it or not, it’s not always about who can tackle the hardest or kick the best. Players also have a huge opportunity to develop their mental skills, which can make them an invaluable asset to the team.

If you’re in a job that requires management, problem solving, teaching or leadership skills, you may already have the attributes that are perfect for rugby. You don’t have to be the fastest runner or the strongest, just turn up with the right mindset and you’re already onto a winner.For the past few months, I have had the joy of being the Editor of Women’s Rugby Coaching. This magazine looks to celebrate stories within women’s rugby as well as sharing insights for coaches and players to take away and put into practice at their own clubs.

One of our most recent themes was to provide activities for coaches to use for people who have never played rugby before. This is crucial – while almost anyone can pick up a rugby ball, it’s up to the coaches to plan training sessions which cater to people of all abilities. It is our job to make sure everyone takes as much as possible away from the sessions whilst, and this is important, having fun!

For me, the best thing about coaching is seeing people grow as they discover rugby. This article may not give a specific list of skills that you need to be a ‘good’ rugby player, but I do hope that it helps you to understand that rugby really is for everyone.

Words by Jess Bunyard

1 comment

  • Adrian ShipleyJul 21, 2021

    Great and well written article.

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