VIDEO: Tackle contest – skills breakout

Use this small-sided contested exercise to work on attack and defence around the first arriving players at the tackle contest. In this video, note how I maintain momentum in the exercise, with quick feedback, questioning and reinforcement.


  1. Put three players on their fronts, shoulder to shoulder.
  2. Throw the ball to any one of the three players. That player then places the ball towards to their left or right, it doesn’t matter which.
  3. The other two players become the attacker and defender, depending on which way the ball carrier places the ball.
  4. They contest for the ball. Once it is clear who has won, call the contest over and they reset.
  5. Have two groups alternating, and if you have more than six players, then other players can swap in.


  • Ball placer: keep the ball active on the ground to make the defender work harder. Reach the ball back towards the try line only once the defender tries to engage with the ball.
  • Ball team first player: if you arrive early, stay balanced, ready to drive forward and meet the opposition player. If not, try to drive under and up and then through.
  • Player trying to steal the ball: if you arrive early, put your hands beyond the ball and then pull it back. Don’t put your hands on the ground. Otherwise, try to drive under and up and then through.


After explaining the exercise, let the players play through a couple of goes, perhaps with some quick reminders of previous technical points.

If a player is clearly not performing the technique, then stop and ask questions to check for understanding.

If necessary, add in a point to add depth to their understanding. For example, in this case, that the player who is coming forward into the contact will tend to win the collision.

For more ideas on drills, activities and games to work on this area try:

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