The 4 points of contact

From Rob Appleyard, former Wales international and defence coach to Newport Gwent Dragons

Develop player ability to control the ball before, through and after contact to maintain more possession. Top pro skills coach Rob Appleyard explains how.

The 4 points of contact

Whether your ball carriers are bashers, footworkers, offloaders or distributors, they need to carry the ball perfectly before contact. If they can do this, they can retain possession, either through offloads or good ball placement.

To help us improve the ability to manipulate the ball, we can learn from how American Football players work the footie. They understand the ball needs to be secure, meaning no defender can knock the ball from their grasp.

The gridiron boys aim to have four points of contact on the ball. Though the rugby ball is bigger than an American football, your players can still achieve this grip.

So what exactly are the 4 points of contact?

They are the:

  • Hand
  • Forearm
  • Bicep
  • Chest

The hand folds over the ball, so it is pressed into the forearm. Those are the minimum points of contact. We will test the players’ control of the ball on these two points throughout the forthcoming activities.

The “guns” are biceps. When the ball is brought into the body, the guns press the ball on the nipple area of the chest, resting just below the ridge. Note that the ball is not held on the side of the ribcage, in what Richard Graham, head coach at the Queensland Reds calls the “teddy bear”. It is tight into the front of the body. Any defender will find it hard to dislodge this ball without having to rip a body part away from the ball.

The second part of the control is something I see too often going wrong. You cannot lead into contact with the ball in front of your body. Instead, the ball should be transferred to the “back arm”. The back arm is away from the lead shoulder into contact.

We want to get to the edge of the defender, so the ball is on the far edge. And with the ball away from the defender and under control, the ball carrier might well be able to “cat-flap” the ball to one of his team mates.