The pros and cons of ball placement

Ball-retention post-contact is essential to your team’s continuity, so here we take a look at the pros and cons of some of the most common techniques.

Encourage your players to think about which ball placement technique should be used when. When coaching within game-play, question players on the effectiveness of their chosen ball presentation and its impact on subsequent phases of play.


  • A wide tackle gate allows more access to the ball.
  • The tackled player projects the ball back to his try line.

  • If the tacked player can twist his feet back towards his own try line, then he can make the gate narrower.

Pros: This technique is probably the most accessible to players as, at its most basic, it simply involves placing the ball back towards their own team. For a better jack-knife, the players can flick their legs back as well to narrow the gate. Now the ball is next to the feet.

Cons: The distance between the contesting player at the ruck and the ball is probably at its shortest with this technique (the depth of the body, plus the length of the arms). It also creates the largest “gate” for contesting opponents to enter the ruck through (where ruck numbers are not limited) if the player doesn’t fully jack-knife.

What to look for: A strong push from the core to project the ball as far away from the body as possible. Whilst holding on to the ball is not allowable, retaining control of the ball with the placing hand(s) is essential.


  • Place the ball back towards the try line, with the feet towards the opponents’ try line.
  • A narrow gate with the ball a long way from the defender.

Pros: The long body position places the ball at the furthest point away from the contesting players and also creates the narrowest “gate” at the breakdown meaning less contesting players over the ball.

Cons: Some tackles make this technique very hard to execute. The player with the ball needs to have most of their body free to be able to re-position and project their body away. Also, with a limited “gate” you need to be sure to avoid one-on-one mismatches at the breakdown.

What to look for: Virtually an instant execution to avoid supporting players from both sides smothering movement. Again, strong movement from the hips and core are essential.


  • As the tackled player goes to ground, he rolls over once.
  • He then places the ball back using a jack-knife or pencil placement

Pros: Downed, but free to move, this technique allows the player to buy an extra yard, and all important time for support to arrive. It will move defenders arriving at the breakdown onto the back foot and into a bad body position.

Cons: Positionally, this technique shares some of the downsides of the Jack-knife. This position is only really possible if not held in the tackle and must be executed immediately. Failure to complete the roll and then placement can result in either not making the ball available or indeed, making it very vulnerable to the opposition trying to steal the ball.

What to look for: Immediate execution using legs and core to create a strong roll. Stick to one roll then strong placement of the ball towards your own team.

Share this
Follow us