Rugby coaching tip for clearing out opposition players from the ruck

Clearing out opposition players from the ruck area is essential if you’re going to secure quick, quality ball and avoid turnovers. The ability to clear out the ruck requires good technique and tactical know-how, however, and not simply aggression and strength.

Focus on one man at a time

Instead of just arriving at the ruck, each of your players should target one opponent to clear out from the ruck. To do this, your players must drive from under the opposition player’s chest.

Pulling hands from the ball

If an opposition player has hands on the ball, one of your players needs to latch on to their arms and squeeze. This will pull the hands away from the ball and unbalance the opponent.

Pulling a player over to the side

If an opposition player is set in a good position, it’s normally more difficult to drive them backwards. If this is the case, try to get your players to pull the opponent to the side.

An easy activity is to set up a defender in a strong position over a ball. To add stability, have this player rest both hands on top of the ball. Then get the “clearer” to walk in, grab the defender’s arms and shirt, and pull them to one side.

Clear over the head

Many practices involve players driving bags away from a ball on the ground, but then also away from the periphery. The ball is the key – players to the side of the ball cannot compete for it, so why not leave them alone?

Instead, simply clear over the “head”. That is, drive through and then over the area where the ball is lying.

Clear at an angle

A well-placed defender is likely to be strongest “down the middle”. They will be more vulnerable to being driven away if the “clearer” drives in from an angle. However, “clearers” need to make sure they arrive “through the gate” of the tackle, and not from the side.

To pick or to leave

The best time to pick and drive is when the ball is clear at the back of the ruck.

At other times, if players pick and drive, or even try to secure the ball by picking it up, the momentum of the drive can be lost. This can also cause more traffic, lead to players being off-balance, and result in knock-ons.

This tip is from The Ruck and How to Win It, the manual can help you sharpen your players’ skills, boost your side’s technical expertise and channel your team’s aggression to create a successful “rucking machine”.

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