Keep the ball alive

By Colin Ireland, Physical Education teacher with sixteen years’ experience working for the Scottish Rugby Union


Being able to keep the ball alive is important when trying to break down well-organised defences and moving the ball forward from A to B can be done much quicker if it’s kept off the ground.

Set up

A 15m x 10m box, several balls, markers.

Keep the ball alive

What you get your players to do

Split into groups of three with a ball. Two are attackers and one is a defender. The ball carrier attacks the defender, pulling him to one side and making him tackle low.

With a low tackle, the arms are free to pass the ball back inside to the second attacker (see picture 1).

This is then developed by joining up with another group and having three attackers and three defenders. Defenders stand in single file about 5m apart.

The ball carrier passes back inside while being tackled (see picture 2).


  • The ball carrier holding the ball in two hands.
  • Ball kept clear of the defender.
  • Changing direction and pulling the defender to the side.
  • Passing back inside to the support player.
  • The support player timing his run so he takes the ball at pace.
  • Good, clear, timed communication from the attacking players.


Play 3v3 in which an attacker makes a decision to break outside or inside, moving a defender, then passing out of the tackle (see picture 3).


Start this activity at a slow pace as being able to accurately pass while being tackled is a skill not all players will feel comfortable with. The key is to make the defender tackle low.

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