How top defenders do more

All players can be more effective in the tackle area, but what are the top players doing that your players can also copy and use in games. Here are two ideas to work on in training…

The pro-coaches have many benefits available to them and one of them is the opportunity to review footage of every game in detail. And this shows a level of detail that most other coaches can’t see.


We hope most of our players can make their tackles.

Even if that’s the case, you will still find that some players will not trust their team mate and try to help make the tackle as well.

This leads to two players making the tackle. Of course that has some advantages. We might be able to drive the player backwards, and at least one of the tacklers will be strongly placed to challenge for the ball as the opposition support players race back into position.

But too many times, the “other” tackler makes no difference, and falls over and out of the game. That’s a wasted player who’s unlikely to be back in the defensive line in time to make a significant difference in the next play.


In tackling practices, we encourage the tackler to complete the tackle by regaining their feet as quickly as possible and then challenging for the ball. This is good technique but we need to watch how the professional players have taken this one stage further.

Legally, if the tackler has gone to ground in the act of making the tackle, he now cannot enter the tackle from any angle. He must  come through the tackle gate, which means he has to play the ball from directly behind the tackled player or tackler closest to their own goal line.

Often the best way for the tackler to cause the maximum disruption if they find themselves on the opposition’s side of the tackle (which is likely if they made a passive tackle), is to go back over the ball, with their backside to the opposition. However, they must clearly be seen to NOT touch the ball. It’s all about perception to the referee.


More and more top sides are encouraging their second defender not to try to win the ball but instead disrupt legally.

  • They should aim to take the space over and beyond the ball, but not too far. They don’t put their hands on the ball, just drive forward into the oncoming attackers.
  • They make sure their entry into the tackle area is squeaky-clean and square. I like to call it an L-shaped line of running.
  • They listen to the referee. If they do get their hands on the ball, they need to make sure they release if he calls it – even if the defender thinks he’s in the right.

Here are some tackling exercises to work on these aspects of the game:

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