A few seasons ago, I enhanced my own coaching in three ways leading to excellent improvements in my players’ skills. Here’s what’s made a difference. MORE
5 steps to perfect contact
Taking the ball into contact is unique to rugby, as are the skills and mentality required to succeed at it. So introduce contact sessions early to your players to help them assimilate the concept over time.
1 LEARNING TO LOVE CONTACT
Contact skills should be gradually introduced towards the end of the season before full-contact rugby begins. Initially, it’s about getting players used to being in contact with each other and exploring safe and effective ways of making contact. It should be introduced in stages, with players not being pushed on until they’re ready.
Start with different wrestling games, with players on their knees, to get players accustomed to contact and the muscle groups and techniques used.
2 PREPARATION FOR CONTACT
Taking the ball into contact in effect starts before the carrier receives the ball.
- The ball carrier needs to be in a deep support position to run onto the ball at pace, so that he has momentum going into contact.
- He should attack the side of the defender rather than run straight at him, as this will help him to “win the contact”.
- He should hold the ball in two hands so the defender can’t fully commit to the tackle until the last second in case the ball is passed.
3 DURING CONTACT
As soon as the ball carrier feels contact from the defender, his instinct should be to stay on his feet, drive his legs and either break the tackle or look to offload the ball. This should be instilled in players from an early age as it needs to be developed into a reflex reaction every time contact is taken.
4 AFTER CONTACT
If the tackle is successfully made, the ball carrier’s role is to protect the ball, keep it under control and make it available to his team as quickly as possible.
Coach your players to crumple as they’re tackled – this reduces injury and gives them better control over the ball as they fall (see illustration above). Tackled players should aim to place the ball back as far as they can to prevent the opposition getting to it.
- The attacker absorbs the hit from the tackler in his hips and falls away from the direction of the tackle.
- Still holding the ball in both hands, the player ensures his knee hits the ground first.
- As the attacker falls, he twists his body away from the tackler so that his hip hits the ground next.
- He lands on his side, absorbing the contact by flicking his legs up as much as the tackler will allow. His arms are free so he can reach out and place the ball for his support.
5 MIND GAMES
While attacking rugby should be about aiming to avoid contact, there are times when players must recognise that it’s necessary. Introducing contact skills to players early will help them develop the necessary skills and an enjoyment of contact that is essential to play rugby.
Make contact fun in training with plenty of small-sided and controlled games to help players develop their new-found skills in context.