Teaching ruck technique with a tackle bag – part 1

teaching ruck technique with a tackle bag
Equipment needed: Tackle Bag, Tackle Shield
Minimum # of players: 2

There are many challenges to teaching new rugby players the technique of rucking. Not the least of which is the purpose of the ruck in the first place. In my experience, teaching ruck technique with a tackle bag helps overcome these challenges so that players can progress in their skill and understanding.

Here’s a simple drill that is perfect for both small and large groups and progresses well. If this is the first time introducing rucking, be sure to review the ebb and flow of the game as covered in our Rugby 101 area. This will give players get some idea of why rucking is such an important skill in rugby.

Foundational skills

In these drills, the tackle bag represents the tackled ball carrier. At this point, it’s not necessary to assign teams or offensive/defensive labels. With this in mind, start the drill with a player (shown below in red) standing over the tackle bag and holding a tackle shield (see photo, above).

The other player (shown in blue) will start by approaching the tackle shield in a low stance with their shoulders above their hips and their eyes looking forward. They will engage the tackle shield with their shoulder and arm(s). While maintaining your hold on the tackle shield, the player drives with the legs the full length of the bag.

Coaching points:

  • Drive all the way through until the player holding the tackle shield is no longer over the tackle bag.
  • Lower points of contact will result in more successful rucks (ie. the lowest player with good a good stance usually wins the ruck).
  • Keeping the shoulders above the hips and eyes forward are critical for both safety and effectiveness.
  • Remain on your feet (you can’t ruck if you lose your feet).
  • Keeping hips square to the tackle shield gives maximum driving power.

Small-unit rucking

Once your players master the basics, this drill progresses well to a unit-based activity. It begins the same as stage 1, but additional players join onto the player making contact with the tackle shield. The second player bind onto first to help add weight and power to the driving. The third player repeats the process and so on.

Coaching points:

  • Have the players experiment with different binding styles to see which yields the most powerful and effective result.
  • All players must do their best to keep their hips square and their stances low.
  • Players need to remain close together so as to bind onto each other immediately after player 1 makes contact. This is a great time to coach communication.
  • Everyone must keep their feet to participate in the ruck.

Multi-phase rucking

Isolated, 1-and-done rucks are rare events in a rugby match. Thus, the team must learn how to perform a series of rucks. Escalating the team ruck drill will help them do just that.

This drill is identical to stage 2 except that it occurs multiple times in a short time span. Between each phase the last player in the group will announce that the ruck is over. This signal tells the group to move on to the next contact area with the last players breaking away first. Thus, it teaches the ebb and flow of the game and builds endurance. Additionally, the players

Coaching points:

  • Communication is critical here so that groups organize and work in unison.
  • Players must learn to not over-commit to a ruck.
  • Players need to communicate when they ruck is over so players who may have less visibility know to recycle and head towards the next ruck.

Variations in teaching ruck technique with a tackle bag

In part 2 on this topic we’ll look at a number of variations to teaching ruck technique with a tackle bag. These variations will keep this type of drill from getting boring. By mimicking different match situations, these variations will also and force players to make decisions in real time.

We’ll also go over how to convert this drill into a game to keep your practice fun and exciting.

Turnover time

What drills do you use to teach rucking at rugby practice? Do you have any tips for teaching new players? I’d love to hear your answers in the comments below.

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