Rugby coaching tips for contact skills

Rule 1: Step to go through the door

My number one rule is that players need to be able to step before contact. A sidestep to the left or right of contact creates a door to go through. Even going part way through the door means the player is behind the defensive line.

Getting past the first defender removes the biggest threat. Supporting players will find it easier to take other defenders away from the player on the floor – clean out – because these players will have to run back from the defensive line and around to challenge for the ball.

Five tips to work on contact skills

Rule 2: Keep the ball rugby skills

When going into contact, make your players carry the ball:

  • Tight to the body.
  • Under their nipple.
  • Arm tight to body (more difficult for smaller players).

Rule 3: Create width in contact

Use fends to increase the distance between the ball carrier’s body and the defender, then the ball and the defender. The full width would be an arm’s length and the width of body.

Rule 4: Rugby drills for finger skills

Powerful fingers, especially for the forwards, mean more opportunities to rip the opponents’ fingers from the ball. Possible ways to improving finger strength are giving your players rugby drills where they grip and carry around heavy bricks, or carry around a watering can filled with wet sand by the handle.

Rule 5: Identify and eliminate first threat of contact

The first player arriving in the contact contest after the ball carrier needs to make a decision on what to do next. Coach the players to identify the threat then delete it.

Possible threat solutions:

  • An opposition player trying to steal the ball on the ground – clean out the defender by getting underneath their chest to drive them off the ball.
  • Go ‘on the ball’ if there is no immediate danger, either to pick up and go forward or protect the ball.

Jim Love, former Maori All Blacks coach and player and Tongan Rugby World Cup Coach, and Dan Cottrell have compiled a ground-breaking report about coaching individual player and team skills at the ruck, called The Ruck And How To Win It. Click here to order a copy.

Click here for more rugby drills to improve contact skills.


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