Stage D sessions: Developing the ruck

Here is the second session is a series of sessions around the Return to Play and Stage D.

The first session on tackling can be found here.

Before you start, remember these regulations:

  • No scrum, maul, opposed lineout or upright tackle training activities are permitted.
  • A maximum 15 minute total duration of any of the adapted contact activities within a single training session.
  • Players placed in groups of a maximum of 6 for adapted contact and non-contact skill development activities. 
  • Players should avoid face to face exposure of more than 3 seconds and more than 15 minutes of exposure at less than 1 metre with another player.
  • Use of tackle bags, shields and pads that are cleaned and sanitised after each player use.

Try to avoid using anything that requires cleaning (bags, shields, pads) in the short period that you have. You could lose a lot of time cleaning between sets.

Also, ensure players only spend three seconds in close contact at a time. Our contact sessions need to work on the speed at which contact takes place.


This session reintroduces the ruck to players and follows a similar pattern in that we first check for the ability of players to ruck safely, remind players of relevant laws and reintroduce contact in a controlled manner. We are stripping this back to the very basics.

Part One: Ruck safety

  1. Work in pairs.
  2. One player is the rucker, the other player is the ball carrier.
  3. Start the ball carrier on the ground with the ball presented.
  4. Have the rucker turn and go over the ball to demonstrate a safe rucking position. Ensure players are coming over the ball.
  5. Look for players to get in a strong, stable body position, with head and shoulders above their hips at all times, neck in neutral.
  6. Depending on experience level you may look for a lower body position.
  7. Keep letting players rotate around from being the rucker to the ball carrier.

Purpose: The basics are vital to the safety of the ruck and our players. Again, this is something that we can always address. Ensure players are coming through the gate – that is, over the ball with their hips facing up the pitch.

Part Two: Rucking in pairs

  1. Work in pairs, with both starting on their chest facing each other with a ball between them.
  2. On your signal, they get up and actively ruck against each other, remembering that they need to fully bind with an arm.
  3. Encourage players to remain in stable body positions against each other for 3 seconds.
  4. Remind players they must remain on their feet or they will be penalised in a game.
  5. If safe and relevant to do so, move on to introducing a contest for the ball between the two players. This time if a player gets to the ball first they can lift it, or they can look to ruck past the ball.
  6. Emphasis the law adaption that players no longer have to release the ball if they are the first player to the ruck, can get hands on the ball and remain controlling their own body weight. The players have three seconds to get the ball or drive the other player away from it.

Purpose: Get players used to having to actively ruck against opposition players once more. Again, the focus on needs to be on staying in a stable body position above all else, for some groups this may be more important than looking at contesting possession.

Part Three: Basic decision making at the ruck

  1. Split into threes. Set out four separate coloured cones on compass points.
  2. A ball carrier will start on their knees in the middle of these. The ball carrier’s teammate and an opposition player ruck start on opposite cones.
  3. On your signal, the ball carrier will then move to face one of the cones with the ball, the two ruckers need to adapt and take the relevant roles.
  4. Remember that we can only work for three seconds of contact.
  5. Give players a point if they “win” the ruck or manage to steal the ball.
  6. Players lose a point for unsafe rucking, for example, hips higher than shoulders or diving in.
  7. Keep rotating the roles.

Purpose: Get players to consider their roles at the ruck, especially if they aren’t coming in at a typical angle. Encourage competition at the ruck.

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