Build contact confidence: Touch-Tackle-Ruck

Introduce players of mixed ability to contact by building up the skills through games and questioning.

I’ve found that using this progression of activity, the players develop contact skills together. You can adjust the pitch sizes and timings to suit your players.


Start a game of touch, the ball being passed within 2 or 3 seconds of the touch.

Add the touch-tackle where both players going to ground, head to head before the “tackler” kneels and the ball carrier stands passively permitting the tackler to make the tackle.

The ball carrier makes a long presentation backwards towards his own line.

Another player moves forwards and passes the ball to another player and the game continues.

Repeat until a knock-on or other mistake gives possession to the other team. If no mistakes occur, you could limit the number of touch-tackles before a turnover.


Encourage tackling from a crouched position.

As above but introduce the concept of the ruck by getting a player from the attacking team to crouch over and secure the ball before a player moves in to pass the ball away to another player. The game continues.

Get a player from the defending team to resist the attacking player positioned over the ball. So now you have four players involved in a fairly passive ruck.

Gradually allow and encourage the two players on their feet to contest at the point of contact.

Encourage the tackler to release the tackled player, get to their feet and add their presence to the contest.

Build up the numbers in the ruck as their abilities improve. At times limit the numbers in the ruck when things become messy. Go back and build again.

Encourage the quick movement of the ball away from the breakdown rather than engage in a massive and protracted contest. Get the players to start reading the game as to when or if to join the ruck.


Encourage the tackler to tackle from a standing position.

Allow the ball carrier to be more active within certain limitations and to be more active in avoiding the efforts of the tackler. Allow the “scrum-half” to run with the ball at which point you can introduce the concept of the defensive line, guards and line speed.


Divide the training area into a central zone between the two 15 metre lines and two 15-metre-wide zones between the touchline and the 15 metre line.

Play a mixed game with full tackling permitted in the central zone and Touch-Tackle-Ruck in the two side zones. In this way, those who don’t feel capable of full-on tackling keep the comfort of T-T-R whilst at the same time the more confident can engage in a controlled game of full contact. Initially keep the two sets of players only able to play in their own zones.

Eventually allow players to move between the two zones. However, the nature of the tackle is determined by the zone not by the player. Therefore, a player who starts in the central zone but who enters the T-T-R zone, is subject to the T-T-R rules and can be stopped by a two-handed touch. Similarly, a T-T-R player can be tackled if they enter the full tackle zone (and with increasing confidence, frequently do so).

In order to prevent the full-on tacklers from dominating the game, insist that before a try can be scored, the ball has to be handled by a player in the T-T-R zone by a T-T-R player. Throughout this set-up, the overriding consideration is to ensure that the less able and less physical players are able to engage in the essential aspect of rugby, namely contact.

Thanks to Andy Marshall for helping to build this session.

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