EXPERT SESSIONS AND ADVICE FROM QUALIFIED AND EXPERIENCED GRASSROOTS RUGBY COACHES

Tracking down the attacker – footwork

Shuffling and cross-over steps are essential skills for a defender to react to a change of direction of an attacker. Work on these in the development of your players’ tackling progression.

Basic movement skills help players in many core areas of the game but especially in evasion, contact and tackling. If players can understand the right movements, they can continue to refine this away from training, as well as under your watchful eye.

I have found particular gains with tracking in defence when concentrating on this technique.

Tracking means the defender moves close to the ball carrier before making the tackle.

  1. A ball carrier comes forward, and looks to beat the defender.
  2. A defender should come forward to start with.
  3. He then shuffles across before stepping off his outside foot.

  1. He puts the same shoulder as his foot into the ball carrier.
  2. He then drives through with his outside foot.

To keep it simple, the defender should think that his first movement is a shuffle. A change of direction is done by pushing off the outside foot. This will help him to react to any late movement by the attacker.

We want to get defenders to be active before the tackle, and this is best done by developing this type of footwork.

TRACKING PROGRESSIONS

1 RUNNING THE CONES

Set out a course of cones, say 5m apart in a T- shape. A player works on the following steps starting from the bottom of the “T”.

  1. Move forward and shuffle to the side – left then right.
  2. Move forward and shuffle diagonally to the left, coming back to the right.
  3. Move forward and shuffle diagonally to the right, coming back to the left.

2 REACTION DRILLS

The player moves forward and shuffles to the left or right on your call; returns or accelerates on second call.

3 OPPOSED WITH PAD

A defender moves towards a ruck-pad holder no more than 5m away who steps left or right and he shuffles into position and drives through the pad.

4 LIVE OPPOSED EXERCISES

Players start in the end corners of a 5m box (adjust to suit your players) and the defender tracks the attacker trying to push the attacker in one direction only.

Players start in the middle of the box. The defender chooses an attacker’s shoulder, makes that the inside shoulder and pushes the attacker out in that direction. He must move forward off the line.

The attacker is encouraged to change direction; the defender must recover.

The attacker increases the angle of attack so the defender must use a cross-over step then a shuffle to re-position for the tackle.

Note, tackling can be full or grab, depending on the amount of contact you want.

KEY POINTS

FOOTWORK

  1. To change direction, push off the outside foot in the opposite direction.
  2. Shuffle with short controlled steps.
  3. Centre of gravity over the base of support for power.
  4. Adjust for contact with shuffle steps.
  5. Use cross-over steps for better speed.
  6. Recover when the attacker moves with shuffle steps for control and power.

POSITIONING

  1. Go forward first with controlled steps to cut the angle.
  2. Pick the preferred shoulder to cut attacker’s options.
  3. Look to reduce the space to a small grid drill to work on quicker reactions.
  4. React don’t anticipate.
  5. First and last movements should be shuffle steps.

Some articles and activities on tracking:

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