Rugby drills using tackle bags

1. Tackling drills

Don't let your players dive into the bags. Make sure they have at least one foot, two feet preferably, on the ground when they hit the bag. Your players also should change shoulders when hitting consecutive bags.

Use the whole of the bag to hit. Get the players to drive in at different heights. Some bags will come with the manufacturer's name printed down the tube. Use the letters to indicate the heights (e.g. the "N" in RHINO).

2. Carry the bag tackling

One player carries the bag forward and the second player then drives into it. This makes the tackle more dynamic. Carrying the bag means that the tackler has a moving target and has to adjust their tackle accordingly.

3. Plyometrics at the tackling session

Bags can be used as part of a plyometric drill session. Placed on their sides they become wide hurdles. Players can use them to bounce over using one or two feet. A hurdle course can also be made with several bags.

4. Step over

Used to simulate a tackled body which needs to be stepped over to drive. Having defenders on the other side of the bag, perhaps with tackle shields will promote better body positions. An idea is to get the player to graze their backside over the back, making them drive up from the bag in a stronger position.

5. Ball on top

Tackle bags can be used to simulate a turnover ball from a good tackle. The ball is placed on top of the bag. When the bag is tackled, the player or players need to recover the ball as quickly as possible and move with the ball to another drill.

Equipment care tips

Tackle bags are expensive pieces of equipment (but you know that already). Do not drag them along the floor to take to and from training sessions. This damages the seams at the bottom of the tube. This leads to a situation where the foam becomes exposed and eventually gets worn away.

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6. Narrow vertical channel

By placing two tackle bags held up by players close together, a narrow channel is produced for a ball carrier to go through. This will encourage a good body position especially, with shoulders turning sideways to get through the gap – the "shoulder turn". This drill coaches the skills to enable players to offload the ball after taking a hit.

Shoulder turn tip

The shoulder turn

Use tackle bags to create the two defenders, D1 and D2. When a player reaches the defenders (fig. 1), they turn their body so their shoulders become a thinner obstruction (fig. 2). This will help them to ease through the gap, as well as leaving them better balanced and in a better position to offload the ball.

7. Bounce drill

Place the tackle bag on its side. Players approach the bag from its bottom end with a ball. They then dive on top of the bag. They will need to react quickly to where they land, either to hand the ball off to another player or recovering to carry on themselves.

8. Ball on the deck

Players put the ball next to a bag on its side and then another player has to reach over and pick the ball up. Encourage players to put one foot over the bag to provide a stronger base and also not to lean on the back. Pressure can be applied by making other players compete for the ball.

9. Hidden players

Tackle bags standing up make a good screen for attacking players when setting up a defensive drill. The attackers come from behind the bags, through different gaps and at different angles. Defenders then have to react to where the ball carrier is.

10. Carry bags for a warm up drill

A fun and hard-working warm up drill could include relay races which involve carrying a tackle bag. A two player or even three player drill. But remember, don't let them drag the bags.

11. A tackle drill with one bag

Set up three cones placed 1, 2 and 3 metres away from the tackle bag. Player 1 holds the bag. Player 2 hits the bag then retires to the first cone, and hits it again, before retiring to the second cone and so on, up and down the cones for three repetitions. The hard work comes from hitting the bag, getting up, repositioning and then hitting again.

This article is taken from the Better Rugby Coaching e-newsletter. Click here to sign up and get free rugby drills and skills twice a week.

Click here for rugby drill tips for the two-man tackle. 

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