Players will need to move from contact situations, developing a basic open play attack structure in order to keep the ball always alive and available to play in the next phase. By Chema Fernandez, IRB L3 coach and 30+ years of coaching experience MORE
Drills to improve contact skills
It is essential for the attacking team that the ball carrier does everything possible to win the contact situation and keep the momentum of the attack going forward. These tips and drills will help.
Simple rugby drills for contact work
Here is a drill to emphasise the importance of the ball carrier having a good body position and being strong in contact. The players work in groups of five across the width of the pitch. One player holds a ruck pad out in front of the rest of the group.
The first ball carrier hits the pad with their shoulder and works hard to stay on their feet driving forward with small steps. They need to keep facing forward to drive effectively. As soon as they start twisting their body they will lose the power to drive and control the situation.
The next two players bind together and as the ball carrier goes to ground they drive over the top leaving the ball clear for the fourth player to pick up. The player with the pad realigns and the new ball carrier takes the ball into contact and the exercise repeats across the pitch.
Emphasise that the ball carrier must stay on their feet in contact and drive their legs until the support players arrive.
Rugby drill development
Without ruck pads, five attacking players work against pairs of defenders.
The ball carrier drives into the first two defenders who try and tackle them to the ground. The ball carrier must work hard to stay up until the support arrives. They must try and drive forward and at the same time protect the ball from the defenders (as the illustration).
The support players communicate their arrival and drive over the ball carrier who has fought to get to ground and present the ball. The next player then picks up the ball and attacks the next pair of defenders, and so the game continues.
Key factors for taking contact
- Body height and position at contact
Players taking contact too high will end up being knocked back in big tackles. We need them to get low, bending forward from the hips and maintaining their balance so they can drive forward. They must also stay facing forwards so they can drive effectively.
- Point of contact
The ball carrier should make contact with the defender with their shoulder straight on so they can drive straight. They then “control the contact” by taking fast, short and strong steps forward, all the while fighting to stay on their feet. They also need to protect the ball by holding it away from the opposition.
- Protecting the ball
The player needs to protect the ball by holding it away from the opposition. The ideal place is on the back hip and the other arm can be used to hold the would be tackler and keep them up.
- Getting to the ground
When told to by the support players, the ball carrier must fight hard to get onto the ground, and then present the ball back towards their team and as far from the point of contact as possible.