Effective Tackling Drill Rugby Techniques for Winning Matches

Effective Tackling Drill Rugby Techniques For Winning Matches

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Tackling drill in rugby is an important practice. When it comes to the world of rugby, few skills are as crucial as tackling. A well-executed tackle can change the course of a game, providing both offensive and defensive advantages to your team. Like with any other sport, rugby drills are an essential part of becoming a better player and scoring more winning matches.

Regular exercises with drill bags and your fellow players are an important aspect of the sport. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the art of tackling drills in rugby, equipping you with the knowledge and techniques needed to excel on the field.

The Importance of Effective Tackle Drill

Tackling is not just a defensive maneuver; it’s a cornerstone of rugby strategy. It allows a team to regain possession, halt the opposing team’s advance, and create scoring opportunities. To truly understand the game of rugby, one must master the art of tackling. 

Without exercise, there is no improvement. If a player finds themselves on the field and doesn’t know how to respond to different situations and just observes the rugby balls flying around without knowing how to tackle players from the opposing team, their skills and performance will remain stagnant, and will most likely result in a loss.

Types of Tackles in Rugby

Head-On Tackle

A head-on-tackle is necessary when the player in possession of the ball is advancing directly towards the defender. To clarify, the tackle is not executed from the flanks or from a position behind the ball carrier. The accompanying image depicts the defender preparing to execute a head-on tackle.

The defender positions themselves squarely opposite the oncoming attacker. Just moments before the collision, the defender lowers their posture by flexing their knees. Inclining towards the attacker, the defender takes the lead with their closest shoulder. As the defender propels forward using their leg strength, it is crucial that they direct their head towards the side of the opponent’s body. The defender must wrap his arms around the ball carrier’s torso.

Failure to do so results in a “shoulder charge,” which is not regarded as a real rugby tackle. In rugby, this action is considered an offense, resulting in a penalty kick and maybe a yellow card. The tackler’s forward motion is generally driven by the shoulder during this phase, with the goal of pushing the ball carrier backward. The tackler’s arms work in tandem to bring the ball bearer downward. The combination of these actions forces the attacker to retreat and eventually fall to the ground, with the tackler landing on top of them.

Side-On Tackle

Side-On Tackle

In the case of a side-on tackle, the defender approaches the ball carrier from a lateral position. The defender remains positioned ahead of the attacker, but their approach is at an angle rather than head-on. The tackler’s head should be positioned behind the nearest buttock of the ball carrier.

When tacklers fail to adhere to this technique and place their heads on the wrong side, there is an increased risk of head or neck injuries. The defender’s shoulder is forcefully directed into the side of the attacker, typically around waist height. The defender’s arms wrap securely around the hips of the attacker.

With the help of gravity and momentum, a strong grip should naturally slide downward and pull the legs of the attacker closer together. This combined action is intended to bring the ball carrier down to the ground.

Rear Tackle

rear tackle

Rear tackle is one of the sport’s most iconic defensive maneuvers.  The defending player pursues the ball carrier from a position behind them in order to close the gap between the two. In an aggressive forward motion, the defender’s objective is to securely encircle their arms around the waist, hips, or upper thighs of the attacker.

Gravity and the momentum of the tackle naturally guide the tackler’s arms downward along the attacker’s legs, ultimately bringing the ball carrier to the ground. It’s important to note that while the attacker moves forward, the defender launches forward as well. If the defender fails to effectively secure their grip around the attacker’s torso, they may find themselves sprawled on the ground.

Smoother Tackle

In the tackles demonstrated so far, the ball carrier retains the freedom to utilize their arms and hands for passing the ball to a teammate. The primary objective of the smother tackle is to completely obstruct the ball’s movement and thwart any further offensive actions.

In this particular technique, the defender aims higher, directing their attention toward the chest region of the opponent. The defender’s arm and body form a protective enclosure around the ball. It’s important for the defender to avoid tackling too high, as contact with the player’s neck or head constitutes a grave violation that can result in a yellow or red card penalty.

Double Tackle

double tackle rugby

A double tackle is executed when one defender opts for a low tackle around the knees, typically employing a side-on approach, while a second defender simultaneously focuses on tackling the torso.

The tackler employs his shoulder and body to obstruct any potential release of the ball. A double tackle can be a challenging maneuver and it requires a fair amount of team play and coordination between the players.

Mastering the Tackling Technique

Now that we’ve explored the different types of tackles, let’s dive into the specifics of mastering this fundamental rugby skill.

Body Positioning

Achieving the right body positioning is critical to successful tackling. Here’s what you need to keep in mind:

  • Stay Low: Bend your knees and hips to lower your center of gravity, making it harder for the opponent to evade you.
  • Eyes on the Prize: Keep your eyes fixed on the opponent’s waist or chest. This will help you anticipate their movements.
  • Head to the Side: Position your head to the side of your opponent, not in front. This minimizes the risk of head injuries and ensures a more effective tackle.

Timing and Approach

Timing and approach are crucial elements of a successful tackle:

  • Angle of Approach: Angle your approach to cut off the opponent’s path, making it difficult for them to evade your tackle.
  • Timing the Hit: Timing is everything. A well-timed tackle disrupts the opponent’s momentum and increases your chances of success.

The Art of Wrapping

Wrapping up the opponent effectively is the key to a successful tackle:

  • Wrap and Squeeze: Wrap your arms securely around the opponent’s body, locking them in. Squeeze tightly to prevent them from offloading the ball.
  • Leg Drive: Use your leg power to drive the opponent backward. This requires strength and determination.

How To Improve Players Tackling Skills With a Specific Drill

Tackling Drill Rugby Exercises

Step and Hit

The first drill focuses on getting your footing close, dropping your height, and hitting through the attacker. It’s all about building a solid foundation for your tackling technique.

Wait and Execute

This drill involves waiting for the attacker to come to you and applying the correct technique. Remember to use the same foot and same shoulder, hitting squarely through the pad.

React to the Attacker

In this drill, you’ll react to the attacker’s movements. Whichever way they step, you must select the right shoulder to tackle from.

Walking Together

Coordination is key in rugby, and this drill focuses on meeting each other while applying the right technique. It’s about working together seamlessly on the field.

The Side-On

Mastering the side-on tackle is crucial. This drill emphasizes proper head positioning and reacting swiftly to the attacker’s movements.

Rapid Reaction

Similar to Drill #3, but at a faster pace. React to the attacker’s movements, selecting the right shoulder, all while maintaining speed and agility.

Adding Some Speed

This drill introduces a bit of a jog. Step across and hit through the pad with precision, ensuring you maintain control and technique.

Side Tackle at Pace

Taking the side-on tackle to the next level, this drill challenges you to execute the technique accurately while maintaining pace and intensity.

Reload and Recover

After making a tackle, you need to get back into position quickly. This drill focuses on chopping your feet and hitting through the pad, reinforcing your technique.

Mixed Start Positions

The final tackle drill incorporates various starting positions, requiring you to adapt and react accordingly. Turn and hit through the pad, ensuring your head is in the right position.

Drills to Hone Your Tackling Skills

Improving your tackling skills requires practice. Here are some training drills to help you become a formidable tackler:

1. Tackle Bag Drills

Tackle bags are a safe and effective way to practice the tackling technique. They allow you to refine your form and power without the risk of injury.

2. One-on-One Tackling

Simulate real-game scenarios by practicing one-on-one tackles with a teammate. This helps you work on your timing and decision-making.

3. Tracking and Closing

Focus on tracking the ball carrier and closing the gap quickly. This drill improves your ability to cut off the opponent’s options.

How To Save Yourself From a Tackle

The primary techniques for evading a tackle revolve around your speed, the force you exert, your body position, and your fend tactics.


Your velocity represents your speed and direction as you approach the tackle. The relative speed between you and the tackler is crucial. If you’re significantly faster than the tackler, their ability to establish a solid tackling position diminishes. The angle at which you approach the tackle also matters; charging straight at your opponent reduces your chances of breaking the tackle.

Conversely, a sudden change in direction can disorient the tackler, allowing you to sidestep or avoid the tackle. Therefore, most coaches advise running at a brisk pace through an opening to leverage your velocity.

Body Position

Your body’s height in relation to the tacklers is critical because tackle-related force is typically applied to a relatively small portion of your body. Minimizing the distance between where the tackler’s force is applied and your center of gravity reduces the chance of torque and rotation, leading to a successful tackle.

Approaching a tackle situation with a lower, knee-bent running technique effectively lowers your center of mass, making it harder for the tackler to exert torque on your body. Additionally, leaning into the tackler’s direction, even when your intended direction is forward, helps maintain forward momentum while countering the tackler’s force from a side position

Force Magnitude

The greater your velocity and body mass, the more force you can generate. A substantial force, relative to the tackler, can push them backward and increase the likelihood of breaking the tackle.

This explains why many professional rugby players have robust physiques—they enhance their muscle mass to amplify the force they can exert during tackles, both offensively and defensively. While not a specific technique, engaging in weight training is recommended to increase your mass and, consequently, your force magnitude.

Fend Technique

The choice of fend technique depends on the specific tackle scenario. If the tackler is in an unstable position, a “stiff-arm” can be used to destabilize them further. Off-balance tacklers often lack the strength and proper body height to match your speed, making it easier to break free.

Using a fend after initial contact can also be effective, applying a secondary force application. In situations where both players have minimal momentum, a palm-based shove can send the tackler off-balance, resulting in a successful break. Furthermore, fending techniques aren’t limited to the chest; consider fending an opponent’s arms to prevent them from grabbing you or targeting their face or head to disrupt their vision and balance.

Tackling Drill Rugby – Safety

While tackling is a critical aspect of rugby, safety should always be a top priority. Here are some rugby tackle safety tips:

  • Always tackle within the rules of the game to avoid penalties or injuries.
  • Use proper equipment, including a mouth guard and a well-fitted helmet.
  • Ensure you are physically fit and conditioned to tackle safely.


In rugby, mastering the tackling drill is non-negotiable. It’s a skill that can make the difference between victory and defeat. By understanding the various types of tackles, perfecting your technique, and engaging in regular drills, you can become a formidable force on the rugby field. Remember, practice makes perfect, and with dedication, you can tackle your way to success.

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