Whole-part-whole defence session

Use this game-skill-game approach to develop your players tackling skills and game awareness of how to complete the tackle. It focuses on footwork and shoulder contact.


A whole-part-whole session starts by putting a skill straight into a modified game. Then, breaking out of the game, it drills down into the detail before returning to either the same game with more modifications or another game.


Before the players make the tackle, ask them about their foot positions and triggers to go into make the tackle. Ideally we want them to be able to drive into the ball carrier, using a powerful final step, with a strong body position.


Game 1 (10 mins)

In a 20-25m box, play 7 v 7 touch rugby. A touch is where there’s two hands on the hips of the ball carrier. After a touch, the ball carrier turns around and passes the ball.

At any stage, call “change” after a tackle. Instead of playing north-to-south, the players rotate around the tackle and play east-to-west.

Ask them after three minutes what this change in direction does. Good answers will include realignment and communication to fill the field.

The prime reasoning behind changing the direction of the game is to emphasise footwork, where players need to side step round to a new position.

Ask them after six minutes why they are being asked to touch the ball carrier on the hips. Good answers will include footwork to get in front of the ball carrier and squaring up in front of the ball carrier.


Breakout skills (10 mins)

Either continue the game, but take pairs of players out of the game, or work as a group in pairs. Match pairs of similar size and speed.

Use the body profile of a prop forward as a good illustration of the shape of the body through the tackle (“Tower of Power” in England). It helps the players switch on the core.

In pairs, a tackler, with his hands behind his back works first with a static ball carrier. He aims to engage his shoulder and drive into the thigh of the ball carrier – “socket to pocket”. Look for the same shoulder, same foot on the contact, then bringing the other foot forward, he drives through.


Game 2 (5 mins)

In a 15m box play “British Bulldogs”, where a defender starts in the middle of the box, and all the other players line up on the far line. At walking pace, they come forward aiming for the far end of the box.

The defender tackles with his arms behind his back. Any player tackled joins the defender. The other players now try to return, with the same consequences for any tackled player.


Game 3 (10-15mins)

Move into the final game to bring the elements together. It’s the same as Game 1, but on your command (say “Walking”), the game moves into walking rugby with full tackling. After one completed tackle, it returns to touch tackling. Call this every three to four touch tackles.

Share this
Follow us