EXPERT SESSIONS AND ADVICE FROM QUALIFIED AND EXPERIENCED GRASSROOTS RUGBY COACHES

4 ways to introduce contact

Need to build up players’ contact confidence or create more physical sessions? Here are four tried-and-test methods that help players understand how to adapt.

1. ROUGH TOUCH RUGBY

Ball touch – only a turnover if the ball is touched. No “touch” tackles

Touch rugby is about as non-contact as basketball or netball. Players are constantly banging into each other in those games. Players do the same in touch rugby, especially if it’s a fast game.

Rough touch rugby is just an extension of basic touch rugby with added incentives. You don’t call it ”rough”, you just set out some more constraints. The constraints aim to test the players’ ability to avoid being touched, with the added bonus to the defending team that they can force a turnover by being a little more physical. 

Try not to tell the players how to improve their chances. Let them discover for themselves.

Here are some examples:

  • Three-second touch. The ball carrier has three seconds to release the ball once touched. If they don’t, it’s a turnover. Eventually, the defenders will start to grab and hold the ball carrier. 
  • No-mistake touch. The attacking team has an endless number of tackles to score a try. If they make a mistake, then it’s a turnover. When there’s a touch, the ball carrier must put the ball on the ground before it’s passed. This creates an offside line. The teams will get more physical as they battle over the gain line.
  • Ball touch. There are no touch-tackles. Other than the normal offences for a turnover (like a knock-on or forward pass), the only way the defence can gain a turnover is by touching the ball. The defenders will start to grab and hold the attackers as the attackers manipulate the ball away from being touched.

2. ALTERNATIVE PADS

Bound in the players with an element of fun should they be driven out of the corridor

Running into tackle tubes or ruck pads held by players won’t add much to the players’ appreciation of how to brace themselves for contact. In fact, it’s possible it can be counterproductive.

Why not use them to create a soft corridor? The ball carrier and a support player move through the soft corridor, and two defenders aim to drive back out and over the pads. 

The lure of a soft landing has a strange effect on the players, who think more about the soft corridor than contact. 

You can use this with more players. You can also score more points if a player is driven out onto a tube rather than a ruck pad. It doesn’t make much difference other than creating another fun element in a contact environment.

Of course, you can make the corridor a triangle too.

3. ROLL REVERSAL

The ball carrier picks up the ball from a kneeling position and rolls over the line to present it

A lot of contact injuries happen because players don’t land properly. They tend to put an arm to break their fall or don’t brace themselves properly. Rolling on the ground with a ball or another player helps overcome some of these problems. 

With a ball, a player starts on one knee, one metre from a line. They should roll forward and over the line and then get to their feet. You can make this a race.

Or, two players hug each other, with their right arm over the left shoulder of their opposite number and their left arm under the right arm. On their knees, they either have to roll left or right one metre, depending on your command. Use colours as a call (left and right won’t make sense!)

4. RIPPER RUGBY

Ripper rugby, version two: In a narrow corridor, a team has to progress forward without passing the ball

One of my favourites, ripper rugby has two versions. The first has three players in the middle of a 10m box, each with a ball. Six other players have 15 seconds to get the balls outside the box. 

They cannot tackle the ball carriers to the ground or lift them off the ground. They should drag, push or pull the player or simply rip out the ball.

The other version pits four v four in a narrow corridor – why not try the soft corridor? The attacking team aim to score without passing. There are no leg tackles, just one massive maul.

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