The main concept behind the rugby punt is giving your coverage players additional time to get downfield before the kick. Not every high school team is blessed with a punter with great hang time.
By Garic B.D. Warner
Special Teams Coordinator
Marietta High School (OH)
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The main concept behind the rugby punt is giving your coverage players additional time to get downfield before the kick. Not every high school team is blessed with a punter with great hang time. The rugby punt allows you to get those precious seconds during the snap to kick interval. The punter must have a consistent launch point, as protection is vital for every punt.
The rugby punt formation possibilities are endless. Here at Marietta High School, we believe in winning special teams play with better fundamentals and effort. The only formation variant we teach is the shield punt. We simply move our wing back to the shield and the gunners to tight end. While the coverage rules don’t change, the protection scheme is a bit different and more in line with traditional shield punt concepts. Below is our rugby and shield punt formations.
When protection becomes a greater priority than coverage, we shift to our shield formation. We simply move our gunners to tight ends and the wing drops back to the shield.
Depending on the accuracy of your punter, you may want to move the left gunner in closer to the formation. Rugby punting isn’t as accurate as traditional punting. If your punter can’t put the ball where he wants it, it’s best to keep that left gunner wider for errant kicks.
In the past, if we’ve had an athletic center, we’ve allowed him to release on the snap. This past season, our center wasn’t a great coverage guy so he stayed in to primarily take up space. We don’t ask our centers to block anybody. We want him focused solely on the snap.
The guards, tackles, and wing work together as a unit. We don’t worry about any rushers outside our left tackle. Our splits, speed of the snap, and punter rollout should beat anyone from the backside C gap. Also, we’re only concerned with defenders within 2-3 yards of the line of scrimmage. Our players are taught to attack the outside shoulder of the first defender to their right. They work through him and start downfield. Again, the center is only there to take up space. Once he sees he isn’t needed, he covers the kick.
The two shield players responsibilities differ slightly. However, they are both taught to play like they're on the edge of a cliff and never go backwards. The left shield player shuffles to the right and checks play side A gap to backside A gap. He then releases on the kick. The right shield player shuffles to the right and blocks the first threat outside-in. He also releases on the kick.
The gunners' release on the snap. They are not involved in protection.
Below is an example of our protection scheme.
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- Details of the four different coverage segments associated with the Rugby punt: left coverage net, right coverage net, shield team and punter.
- The open-field punt technique of the Punter, as it pertains to drops and placement.
- The goal-line punt technique of the Punter as it pertains to drops and hips.
- Plus game film on all these concepts.
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There are many benefits to implementing the rugby punt for your team, increased time for your coverage players to get downfield and extra preparation time for your opponent is the most beneficial. The concepts and techniques are easy to implement and perfect.
Meet Coach Warner: Coach Warner is entering his sixth year as an assistant coach at Marietta High School. The last five of which have been in the position of special teams’ coordinator. He also serves as the head J.V. coach and varsity defensive line coach.