Better ball placement for quicker rucks

Present the ball more effectively in the tackle and your supporting players will have an easier task to help to retain possession. It will also give your 9 cleaner ball to pass away from the base of the ruck.

There’s a simple tactic for good attacking rugby: disorganise an organised defence. A defence is organised at set-pieces. Clever “plays” might break through this defence, but not every time. And, if the ball is slow to emerge from a ruck, then the defence has to time to reorganise ready for the next possible attack.

You should have a plan to disorganise the defence and then attack it again. In its simplest form, this means pulling defenders out of position. You can do this by passing before or during the tackle. 

Once you are behind the defence, they are chasing back, with defenders attracted towards the ball. Pass away from this situation and you will find gaps. In other words, you play without ever being tackled or if you are, you pass away so no ruck is formed.

However, there’s a good chance there will be a tackle and no pass will be available. For a short period of time, the defence may well still be disorganised. If the ball carrier has made inroads into or behind the defensive line, the defenders will be running back into position. The tackler will be out of the defensive line and other defenders might well be closer to the ball than they would be normally, leaving gaps across the field.

Even with a good tackle, the defence will take time to reset themselves. They will have to match up either side of the tackle and reset their gaps to cover potential attacks.

So, there are say three to six seconds before a defence is ready again. Of course, this time frame depends on the level you are playing at.

These seconds are vital for the attack. Though the flow of the attack has been temporarily halted, there’s still time to exploit defenders who are out of position.

But, all too often, these seconds are wasted because of a lack of efficiency in the ball placement. The clearing passer, that is the player who will pass the ball away from the tackle/ruck, should be able to sweep in and sweep away the ball. If they are delayed, the defence has time to realign and match up against your attacking threats.

Ball placement isn’t a straightforward skill. That’s because it’s not a natural one. We don’t spend our lives crawling around on the ground with a ball in our hands. The players need to understand the feel of what’s right. 

We have a ball placement exercise, Quick ball placement, which starts this process. I like to get the players to understand the outcome first. In this case, they must take a tackle and present the ball back towards their own side as fast as they can. I then let them come up with some of their own solutions on how to get there. 

In an ideal world, all our players would have the core strength of a martial arts expert and be able to twist and turn like you would snap a twig. However, given that’s unlikely, they will have to manufacture a way to roll and turn as quickly as they can themselves. 

I will then give them some skills nudges to help them on their way. For example, I might ask them to roll in different ways while watching each other to see what works best.

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