Improve your touch rugby games in training to develop some of the key principles to make your players better defenders. Here are some ideas to change the way you set up and play.
Touch rugby is a convenient way to get players working at their “heads-up” rugby and handling skills, as well as practising new moves and ideas.
It reduces contact, allowing longer training periods to practise skills.
Can be adjusted to increase the levels of conditioning to improve fitness.
However, touch-tackling comes with issues:
What constitutes a touch-tackle?
What skills training elements does it aid?
Too often touch tackles are accepted as some hands somewhere on a body. But in a contact game, it’s rare for a one-handed attempt to stop a runner, let alone bring them to the ground, and similarly, an attempt to tackle too high may see the tackle brushed off.
Yet, in games of touch, we see very light “touches” often counted as tackles, halting progress. This doesn’t replicate the full contact game in any way, and too easily negates what was actually good attacking play.
TOUCH TACKLING MORE LIKE THE GAME
So what should a touch tackle look like to make it more game-like?
The answer will depend of course on what the outcomes of any session are, particularly with regards to attack.
For example, if the idea is indeed to have no possible defensive contact at all, a one-handed touch may be considered quite suitable. However, in most circumstances, we should seek to replicate some basic characteristics of a full tackle: good footwork to get close to the ball carrier and enough contact to show that the tackler would have been able to complete a tackle.
Whatever the rules, it’s key that these are properly controlled. Referee touch harshly.
We need to concentrate hard to maximise the benefits of the game and it’s our input in this sense that makes the most difference. Therefore, instead of wearing a coaching hat and calling in with praise, we should just be penalising poor play or rewarding good technique with our refereeing decisions.
Finally, remember that touch rugby can be quite rough if you want it to be. Though the players aren’t going to be smashing into each other, they can still bump, push and grab if you want them to.
Here are some ideas to work with:
Two arms or two hands
It’s unfeasible to ask players to wrap two arms around an attacker in touch. But they can be expected to place two hands fully on an attacker. Two palms pressed against the attacker is a sign that the tackler has got close enough in order to use two arms.
Picking a target and getting low
Insist on a double-handed touch below the waist. This requires the tackler to move towards a low full-tackle position.
These two rules can be used with all age groups and abilities. They work well with younger players and those new to the game as they concentrate on classical techniques to form an effective standard tackle.
They can also be used to concentrate on particular tackles as well. You could insist on two hands on one thigh if the session aim was the side-on tackle. Players would have to get to the side of the runner.
To improve front-up tackling, you need to think about the body position of the tackler. They have to be in front of the ball carrier.
Therefore ask tacklers to use two hands on a chest. This doesn’t of course put a player in a low position, but it does get the defender square on to the attacker which is where, when using full contact front tackles, the tackler will have to be.
This also forces defenders to understand their overall defensive positioning. It creates good spaces for hard runners to attack immediately on the shoulder of the ball carrier, leading to other defenders having to watch their areas of defence to protect the edges of a tackle. Touch-rugby teach players defence
TOP TOUCH-TACKLE TIPS
Referee hard. Don’t allow poor technique to succeed.
Make the “touch” meaningful – a specific type of touch to work on a specific skillset.
Lots of defence drills get the players in position to tackle, but not enough spend time on setting and then, crucially tackling, especially under fatigue conditions. Play heads up, real-life situations in training.
Helps players match up to the circumstances in front of them and then complete the job. MORE
Players must work on their individual technique whilst cooperating with their team mates to reduce the options for the attack. This session develops this mindset.
A tackler is part of the whole defence. A defence is not always breached because a tackle has been missed, but because a space is not covered. MORE
Work on the roles and skills of the attackers and defenders closest to the tackle area in a tight space. This activity puts the players in game-like situations to look for solutions.
Though there are some principles to follow, this activity will give the players an opportunity to try out different ideas. Expect messy outcomes. MORE
When the defence is outnumbered, it has to drift with the pass. It still has to go forward, but has to curve out at the same time. This session works on those curves.
Defensive systems aim to cut down the time and space for the attack, even when they have to drift out. MORE
If I were coaching tackling to kids for the first time, I wouldn't focus on low tackles. I think it's better to work on the choke tackle. It's safer and more effective.
As a professional rugby coach, people often say to me, “oh, but you've never coached an eleven-year-old before.” Well, a year and a half ago, before COVID, I not only coached my son’s U10s and U11s, but I coached the rest of the school’s A, B, and C teams, from U9s up to U12s. During this period, I taught them to choke tackle. MORE