Emphasise the right footwork and body height through the contact area. It will allow better ball retention and more chances to maintain continuity.
As a ball carrier approaches a defender he wants to keep the ball away from the grasping hands that prevent offloads and slow down placement.
I want to look at footwork and body height, allowing the ball carrier to use his fend. First, the ball carrier has to engage the defender – that is make him sit down ready to make a tackle. Then the ball carrier has to power past the defender, moving to his edges.
You may well have heard of the expression, “go for the branches, not the tree”. That holds true at all levels of the game.
The power step is, in fact, two steps.
The first step moves the attacker diagonally to the side of the defender.
The second step straightens him up again to squeeze through the gap.
Unlike a dancer who keeps himself upright and balanced, a rugby player has to lower his body height. This is so the player can resist contact more effectively, leaning forward in the process.
It is easy to see which players achieve this change in body height because they are continuing forward, even if they are taking a bash from a defender (and a ruck pad holder in training).
With good ball manipulation, the ball carrier can now use his inside arm to fend off the defender. This helps create space between the defender and the ball, allowing the ball carrier to potentially offload.
Therefore, the procedure for the ball carrier receiving the ball close to contact, is: Catch, transfer and lock the ball on the outside; power step and fend.
The mindset for the ball carrier and his supporters, so they can be in the best position for the offload, is the inside fend and outside offload. This is where the ball carrier can “cat-flap” the ball. That is, pass out of the back of his hand. The supporting players aim to flood through if the ball carrier wins the collision.
Use my power step activity to work on keeping the ball safe and attacking the edges of defenders while still going forward.
Make your players transfer the ball into the correct hand and use footwork before contact so they can get to the edges of defenders and keep the ball secure. This activity combines simple ball manipulation with footwork to build good habits in contact. MORE
Then, develop this by using my step and offload activity which works on the role of the support player too.
Quick ball manipulation allows players to keep the ball free in contact. Then, they can offload it to support players, who are confident they can take a pass from the ball carrier. If the ball carrier half breaks a tackle, he is in a position to offload. Support runners need to run the right lines to support this pass. He also needs to fend off with his inside arm to free up the outside arm.
Don’t teach falling over. Teach the players to bounce themselves and therefore the ball off the ground and back into the game. It reduces the fear of falling by making the players embrace the ground as part of a skill for continuity. MORE
Retain possession in a two-man tackle, so your supporting players can help protect the ball. It should reduce the chances of the opposition using a choke tackle to hold up the ball carrier and create a maul. MORE
Develop your players’ skills around the tackle area so they can retain possession if there’s no chance to offload the ball. It requires accurate execution and you have a chance to observe whether your players can achieve this.
Players react quickly to a tackle to protect the tackled player against the first threat. It focuses on the first support player being the player who last passed the ball. MORE