EXPERT SESSIONS AND ADVICE FROM QUALIFIED AND EXPERIENCED GRASSROOTS RUGBY COACHES

Ruck decision making and effective rucking

Sometimes all our forwards pile into a ruck and we are short at the next breakdown. At other times, too few go in and we lose the ball. How can we get the balance right?

To go or not to go to the next ruck is a constant question most forwards face. Too many players and the ball is slowed down by the mass of bodies, and the next breakdown is not well supported. Or forwards hang back and you lack numbers.

However, this is not just a problem for forwards. All players need to support at rucks, and that means backs doing their fair share. But forwards make more of a difference in the physical contest, and you want to keep your backs on their feet to run at gaps if possible.

Accept that some forwards will be better ruckers than others, partly because they make more breakdowns. So, don’t get too obsessive with running complicated patterns of plays with “pods” of forwards clearing out defined rucks. It is better to make players aware of what is in front of them so they can decide whether to ruck or not.

There are three ways to help your players know when to ruck:

1 “UPSKILL” THEIR RUCKING

Create confidence to make a difference at a ruck and, therefore, be motivated to do so. Sean Holley uses ruck circles to help players assess their right course of action.

2 IMPROVE THEIR MATCH AWARENESS

Show them footage of their matches and ask them to identify where they should be/have been, or freeze a practice match and show players where they are at key times and where they should have been.

3 MORE LIVE SITUATIONS

Use training games where players need to decide whether to ruck or not. The Wallabies talk about “contact motivation” in their preparation for tests. Help players be ready to ruck, confident to ruck and see the value of rucking. That will improve their ability to know when to ruck.

Gavin Blackburn’s continuous rucking exercise enhances player ability to get back into the game and ruck effectively.

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