Rugby coaching tips to match tackling partners for better practices

Carefully considering which players practise tackling together can be immensely beneficial. The right player matches overcome inherent fears and maximise the technical aspects offered. This may encompass several areas.


Players may be less physically concerned about those of similar bulk, while similar-sized players may share similar agility. For instance, the props won’t get much from a tackle practice if the winger easily evades them.


Differing heights makes technical practices difficult. Tall players struggle to get low enough on short partners, while shorter players may have to practise at too high a height.


Separating more able tacklers from those still honing their technique also makes sense. Aside from the less experienced tackler’s “fear factor” when practising with more adept and thus stronger tacklers, development can be better managed between players of similar ability.

For instance, good side-on tacklers can progress to front-on tackles, while the less adept continue to work on tackles from the side. Players that still require practice at “soaking up” tackles may not yet benefit from exposure to more aggressive tackles.

The basic aim is to ensure everyone can move on at a pace that suits their skill level.


Stronger tacklers may frighten relatively weaker players. Stronger players make tougher targets, providing better development between similarly strong players.

Personal relationships

Grudges and friendships between players can prove both useful and problematic in turn. Keeping protagonists apart is probably sensible, but overly chummy relationships may lead to a lack of concentration or “larking about”.

Alternatively, friendships may help remove any concerns players may have and grudges may be what is needed to focus some players.

Tackling practices can make or break a player, whether young and being introduced to the concept, or older but unsure. Your sessions as a coach cannot only provide the techniques necessary, but also the confidence to do so.

Setting up a great tackle drill

Here are four areas to make sure your tackling practices are safe, effective and enjoyable.

1. Environment

Tackling involves falling on the ground, so ensure that the area provides a soft landing, lots of space and is free of debris and animal waste.

2. Keep the drill areas small

The area should be no larger than 5m from runner to tackler. Build confidence by starting younger or unconfident players even closer. It’s unlikely an opponent in a game will run 10m straight at a tackler or that a tackler would have to run 10m to reach the ball carrier.

3. Equate sizes and abilities

Especially with younger players, match up player sizes where possible. Players lacking confidence or basic ability will benefit from practising with others of a similar stature and skill level, even at senior level.

4. Tackle bags

Avoid using tackle bags in live tackling sessions wherever possible. Bags provide no instant feedback to the tackler and reward poor contact and technique.

Tackling is a two-way exercise because the tackled player also has technique to work on and has to get used to being tackled. You can’t do that holding a bag.

For more rugby coaching tips and products visit Rugby Coaching Club.

This article is from Rugby Coach Weekly.

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