How to “sit down” a defender

Putting a defender into a weak tackling position allows the attacker to either win the contact situation or fix them to pass onto a player in a better position. Here’s how to “sit down” a defender.

Owen Farrell [left] makes Australia’s Samu Kerevi “sit down” before he passes, while South Africa’s Elton Jantjies [right] angle of attack allows Stuart Olding to move to the next player

“Sitting down” is where an attacker makes a defender plant their feet and stop moving forward. In other words, the defender rocks back onto their heels and looks as if they are “sitting down” on a chair.

Once an attacker has a defender with their feet planted it is difficult for them to adjust or provide any power through the tackle, giving the edge to the attacking player and team.

The best way to engage a defender and make them sit down is to run directly at them. It should be on their outside shoulder if against a drift defence to stop them moving off after the pass, or inside shoulder against a blitz, making the defence turn their shoulders in and adjust towards the ball. Body language is another way to engage a defender.

Make your attackers look at the opponents in the eyes before receiving the pass, use audible and visual cues to highlight where or who to attack. All these little bits of detail can stop a defence and creates more time.

If an attacker or attacking line can get one defender to stop and plant their feet they will create space.

Generally, a defence will react to their inside defender, therefore sitting down a defender will force the rest of the defensive line to slow down, so not to create dog-legs. This, in turn, gives the attack more time and less pressure on the ball to make good decisions and execute efficiently.


  • Run directly at the defender.
  • Use body language to engage the defender.


The diagram shows an example of a simple activity for ball carriers and decoy runners. It works on their running lines to sit down the defenders.

  1. Start with a simple 2 v 1 exercise. The aim for the first attacker is to engage the defender with body language and aggressive running lines, get them to “sit down” the defender and release the spare attacker.
  2. Build up the exercise to a 3 v 2 and 3 v 3.
  3. Attackers changing their running lines to attack spaces will be important when the attack and defence are equal.


The diagram shows an exercise to prevent your defenders sitting down.

To do this, work with them to keep their feet moving forward, so not planting before the tackle.

  1. Line up your rugby players in a straight line and instruct them to run towards you.
  2. As they get close, kick a rugby ball at them. The player needs to adjust their body and move their hands towards the ball whilst keeping their feet moving forwards.
  3. As they improve, increase the velocity of the kick and angle they receive it from. Be aware of the players planting their feet or jumping to catch the ball, both of which will take momentum and power out of the tackle.
  4. Also, as they improve, a tackle can be added post catch to simulate feet moving forward and though a tackle.
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