Stage D sessions: Developing the tackle

With the great news that the RFU have moved us up to stage D on their Return To Rugby roadmap, we are once again able to work with our players around the contact area from the 1st September. 

However, while the option of using contact within our sessions is back on the table, some fairly essential caveats have been imposed by the governing body. These are:

  • 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.

Here’s the first of three sample sessions to make the most of the allocated time and restrictions. This is pitched towards age groups already comfortable with the tackle and an understanding of the ruck.


This session reintroduces players to the tackle, checking that players remember the basics of tackling safely and working on getting clear of the tackle area quickly once the tackle is completed.

Part One: Safety in the tackle

Work in pairs, tackler and ball carrier.

Put the players on their knees to demonstrate that they remember the basic principles: head on the opposite side to shoulder that’s making contact, go cheek to cheek, wrap the arms around, keep the back flat, helped by having the head in neutral (not looking up or down with the neck).

As players demonstrate that they remember the basics and any issues are resolved, they can begin to have the tackled player stood up, followed by the tackler standing.

Purpose: Players haven’t tackled for six months so it’s good to remember the basics, also going over the basics is never a bad thing

Part Two: Tackling a moving player

Still working in pairs, have the ball carrier and tackler now walk towards each other before making the tackle.

Ensure that the tackler is getting low whilst remembering the basics from the previous part of the session.

If players are showing competence in the tackle then both can start to speed up or add footwork, depending on the level. Make sure that players are not engaged with each other any longer than three seconds.

PurposeGet players working on 1 v 1 tackling. This can be tailored to the experience of your players. It could be that your age group players are fine with just walking, whereas the senior squad might need speed and footwork to be engaged.

Part Three: Clear away from the tackle

We are going to advance the 1 v 1 tackle on slightly.

  1. Set up a 2m by 2m box.
  2. Put a tackler and ball carrier inside the box, about two steps apart. A tackle needs momentum to work.

  1. Once the tackle has taken place, the tackler must quickly try to roll out of the box.
  2. If the tackler makes the tackle successfully and rolls out the grid within three seconds they get a point. Otherwise, the attacker gets the point.

Purpose: We’ve seen plenty of players getting penalised for not rolling away from the tackle since the restart of rugby. This is a perfect opportunity to practise getting clear while also making it competitive.

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