Create the mindset and system for quick ruck ball

Jono Farrell says, having researched the top teams and their success rate around the ruck, it’s clear the players have defined roles. By creating the mindset and system, you can develop the skills you need for quick ball.

When it comes to coaching the breakdown and management of ruck speed, the following methodology helps when preparing your sessions:

Create and develop

  1. The mindset
  2. The skill
  3. The system

I have found my players respond very well to sessions which contain each of the above elements and drills which clearly have these themes as their base.


The ultimate objective is to create quick ruck ball through good individual skills and efficiency of arriving support players.

This is a process and will require players to be educated through:

The mindset – what is the mindset required to create quick ball when on attack?

  • Go forward when carrying – gain line is key.
  • Urgency to get support players to tackle contest first.
  • Know roles as arriving support players to avoid inaccuracy and overcommitting.

The skill – what skills are required to generate quick ruck speed?

  • Dominant ball carry.
  • Effective ball placement and security.

HAMMER: First support player, tackle the tackler.

BULLET: Effective clean.

SEAL: Decision maker.

The system – the tactical application of the skills under pressure.

  • How do we test these skills listed above in a realistic tactical situation under pressure?

  1. Attack the “face” and then the ”space”. Get to the edge of defender, but keep hips square
  2. Leg drive before going to ground
  3. Pencil placement or “man-on-fire” roll. Strong top hand

HAMMER: Get to tackler quickly. Separate tackler from ball carrier if they are on their feet

BULLET: Win the race for the space. Win the shoulder battle – low to high. Don’t let the threat reload

SEAL: Deal with any remaining threats. Protect the ball OR pick and go OR pick and pop to half back


It is important to always create the right mindset in a player’s mind as to what he will need to be thinking in order to execute under pressure. The mindset we are after in this scenario all relates to accuracy, urgency and role awareness.

  • Accuracy – from the ball carrier, arriving players executing their roles accurately.
  • Urgency – from the first three arriving support players.
  • Role awareness – what is my role as a ball carrier; who will be the BULLET (clean the first threat); who will be the decision maker or SEAL (lock down back of breakdown, pick and play, pick and pop to arriving halfback)?

Start the session is with a game of special rules touch. These specific rules will assist in developing the appropriate mindset.

The touch games can be around 6 – 8 minutes long and focus on one, or multiple mindsets by employing certain key rules. These will transfer to what is being focussed on in the skills and tactics section later in the same training session.

Examples of some of these rules would be for the attacking team to retain possession in a game of unlimited touch:

  1. Ball carrier must get to the edge of the tagger pre-tag, and shift the ball across his chest away from the tag, and execute a perfect place either north/south or man-on-fire.
  2. Hammer v Hunt – attack team must get their first arriving player to the ball carrier before the opposition player does.
  3. Action and communication of breakdown process – attack team must get three players past or over the ball in order of HAMMER, BULLET, SEAL. Players have to be communicating these roles throughout to maintain possession.

These games of touch help to lay the foundations of the mindset and set the tone for the remainder of the session.

Article by Jono Farrell, ARU L3 coach, Director of Rugby, Toowoomba Grammar School, age grade representative coach in Queensland, Australia

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