You can’t force non-tacklers to tackle, but here’s what you can do…

Many players are ineffective tacklers because they are afraid of getting hurt. Improve their technique and banish that fear factor.


Bad and good tacking – why it happens


Bad tackling means players either miss tackles or don’t make them. You miss through poor technique and application. You don’t make tackles because you don’t want to make them.

The best tacklers are not always the most technically accurate, but they do two things well:

1. They get close to their target.
2. They hold on tight once they have made contact.


Training is not always the best indicator of who will tackle well in a match. On a match day, players may well be fired up to batter the opposition and their focus before the match will be just about that.


In training, you may well be stopping and starting during the session, so players will not always be focused on taking contact. And, of course, it is not quite the same when tackling your mates. Top coaches recognise that players approach tackle training in a variety of ways.


They will sometimes allocate a specific time only for tackling, with a proper build-up. Scott “Razor” Robertson, the defence coach at ITM Cup team Canterbury, says that some players will keep their powder dry – reserving aggression for the weekend. He works on low-impact tackle technique during the week.


Pick and go basics

O’Gara great tactician poor tackler


Despite being one of the best players in the world, fly half Ronan O’Gara is a weak tackler. He does not shy away from contact, but when he gets there his poor technique often lets him down.

O’Gara frequently plants his feet, turns his head away and with no momentum or without making much effort to look at the target, he is barrelled over by the ball carrier.

To deal with this, the openside flanker and inside centre for Munster, Ireland, and the Lions have to play closer to O’Gara than they would to other fly halves.

Sometimes O’Gara can act as a speed bump, slowing down the attacker, even if he cannot complete the tackle. Other defenders have to come in to finish off his work.

Opposition runners will attack him more than they would most 10s, but that makes them predictable, so the Munster and Irish defence coaches can work around that.

Build the confidence and technique of your tacklers using my “back-to-front” tackling activity on page 4. It builds the tackle from back to front, because how the tackle finishes can be more important than how it starts

Then work on good footwork to get close to the ball carrier with my second activity, “shoulder up”. If the tackler can put his shoulder into the tackle, then he won’t be brushed
aside like O’Gara in the picture above.


Why some kids are better tacklers

Players with older brothers who play or have played are usually stronger tacklers. They are used to the rough and tumble of contact in the ordinary course of sibling development.

A younger brother is often the “tackler” in the backyard, with the older sibling hogging the ball.

Tackling and contact gives smaller children a chance to legitimately show their prowess, prove themselves physically, and gain respect in their peer group.

Finally, where a child is encouraged to fend for himself, he has a physical independence. He will have fallen off his bike, dusted himself down and tried again… without a parent scooping him up.

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