Keeping your defensive line straight

These drills also get your rugby players to stay opposite the player they are going to tackle. This is a good rugby coaching session for sorting out “lazy” defenders who do not move forward with the rest of the line.

The objective is to see a line of defenders moving up and back together, while keeping the spacing between themselves constant.

What to get your players to do

Drill 1

  • Two sides with equal numbers of players line up opposite each other. You stand behind one line, the defenders.
  • You direct the attackers to move left and right. The defenders must mirror the attackers’ movements and stay opposite their man.
  • When you put both hands up, the attackers move forward. The defenders have to move up to meet them and make the tackle.


  • Have one more defender than attacker and give the attackers a ball. The attackers pass the ball up and down the line until they make a space to move forward into. The player with the ball must be tackled by two defenders.

Drill 2

  • Four players line up between two cones. They call “SET, HOLD, UP” (or whatever calls your team uses in defence). They then move up (you determine the pace) as a straight line to another pair of cones five metres away.
  • Repeat the rugby drill, increasing the gap to 20 metres, making sure the line stays straight and the spaces between the players remain the same.

  • Vary the width of the pairs of cones. This makes the players change their spacing while moving forward.

  • Introduce a “trigger” for the players to move (for instance you hold up a ball). This makes the players watch for a movement before moving up.

  • Increase the speed at which the players move.
How would I put this into a game situation?
Multi-ruck game
  • Set out three “rucks” (piles of tackle bags) and number them 1, 2, and 3. Put a ball at the back of each.

  • Split your players into two equal teams, attackers and defenders.

  • Call out a number, 1 to 3. The teams move to that ruck and try to win the ball. The defence must move up in a straight line and at the same speed.

  • Once the attack is stopped or is successful (for instance crosses over the gain line), call a new number. The players have to run to that ruck, leaving the first ball behind.
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