Players of all ages ask the question, "Do we have to train in the rain?". Quite simply, yes, we do have to train in the rain, because it might rain on match day! To make the most of a session when it is raining, we must embrace the weather conditions and enjoy the challenge; and maintain our enthusiasm. As coaches, we set the tempo for the session, so if we remain positive the team will be more likely to follow.
When we practice in wet weather conditions, the areas of the game that suffer most are lineouts, restarts, passing and the ball into contact. If we practice lineouts and restarts, do them at the end of the session because the players may be inactive to a certain extent. They may risk injury if they are cold and wet and then try to run around. Passing can initially be practiced without pressure, however use questioning on the types of pass that are going to be most effective in the conditions.
Your players may prefer to get wet in stages. Consider using your imagination to facilitate performing your team talk and warm up under cover i.e. running on the spot in the changing rooms with boots off, dynamic stretching, press ups and sit ups. Once the players get on the pitch, try to keep them off the surface for as long as possible. Can your running, handling and lineouts be delivered at the start of the practice. Getting "muddy" is best delivered at the end in high intensity and active practices that keep your players on the move.
You have to be realistic and recognise that the wet conditions will lead to more knock-ons and turnovers. You can prepare your players for this by by practicing recovering and securing the ball on the floor. Try to create scenarios where your players develop their skills in fall on the ball, presenting the ball and rucking. Ask questions to stimulate their understanding of how the ball could and should be presented to the scrum-half to avoid the ball being buried in the mud; and risk being knocked on.
Kicking the ball in bad weather can also take on a new dimension as kickers may find that their non-kicking foot will be less stable; making place kicking, restarts and drop goals more difficult. Make sure that you discuss your kicking tactics with your kickers based on what they feel is possible, and where pressure can be applied to the opposition kickers. It is also worth spending quality time on kicking in open play; both in attack and defence. Consider trying to pin back your opponents into their half and let them make mistakes. A low risk option could be a low raking kick, rather than the chance of misfired high ball that your chasers might knock on. Your kick-chase, recovering the ball, and associated decision-making are skills that can be great fun on wet pitches as sliding is a likely possibility.
Also, spare a thought for your pitches and the rest of the season. Try to move your practices around as much as possible, and do repetitive exercises off the pitch so you do not churn up the ground. Once the training areas have turned to mud it is unlikely they will recover. When they get compacted and go rock hard later, they will be very unpleasant to train on.
P.S. Try to avoid your players getting cold hands for a more productive practice. Though it can affects the younger players far more than the older players, it is worth trying to reduce the effects of cold hands in training. Apart from the obvious use of gloves, a number of strategies are worth employing:
Quick changes of direction and fast footwork will be difficult to execute on muddy pitches. The ball is likely to be slower than normal, and from a shorter distance than normal, meaning forwards will be closer to the backs. Your tactics could consider:
The fundamental problem with scrummaging on a wet pitch in the mud is the increased risk of collapse due to instability. Your tactics could consider: