December 5, 2023


Advocacy. Mediation. Success.

How to be a great rugby captain

What do Francois Pienaar, Martin Johnson and Sean Fitzpatrick have in common? What about Clive Sullivan, Brad Fittler and Darren Lockyer? Yes, they are all legendary rugby captains.

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But what makes a great captain? Are some people born to lead or is there a captain in everyone?

According to a study carried out by University College London, there is a ‘leadership gene’ which makes it more likely that an individual will become a leader/manager. As well as this, a study in America discovered that great leaders may well have more grey matter in areas that control decision making and memory. Despite this, many still believe that a great captain can be made.

Get drilling!

In many sports, repetition is a crucial way of learning and football or rugby drills are commonplace on the training ground. For some great examples of these, take a look at a website such as

Whether acquired through nature or nurture, there are a number of recognised qualities that are needed to be a great rugby captain.

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Leading by example

Some people do have a natural aura that makes people want to follow them, but seeing someone give 100% effort and behave in an admirable way will always encourage others to follow suit.

Sportsmanship and respect

Following the etiquette of the sport is an important part of being a good captain. Treating the match officials and the opposition with respect is another. Being able to congratulate or commiserate with your opponent, no matter what has happened during the game, shows great respect.


A never say die attitude and a refusal to give up is something found amongst all great captains.


Particularly in today’s age of pre- and post-match press conferences, being able to present and articulate themselves in a professional manner in front of the cameras is a key asset needed by any modern day rugby captain.

Tactical acumen

All the great captains have a good handle on tactics and are able to implement tactical changes on the pitch, in accordance with the instructions of the coach/manager.


The ability to communicate with your teammates both collectively and on an individual basis is vital. Being able to communicate and build a strong relationship with technical, fitness and other coaches is also important.