VIDEO: Messy start close-ruck attack and defence

Use this ruck scenario builder to develop heads-up attack and defence. Defenders have to match up, deciding whether to stay in the ruck or defend other threats. The attack has to win the ruck and the decide how and where to attack. The messy start means that plans have to adjust quickly.


  1. Put a ball carrier with their back to a defender with another defender directly behind the first defender.
  2. Have two attackers in line right in front of the ball carrier. To start with, use ruck pads to keep them tight and in line. Remove them when they become more used to the exercise.
  3. Have at least two attackers in position and one defender.
  4. When you shout go, the defender closest to the ball carrier wrestles the ball carrier to the ground. The defender tries to turn the ball carrier and the ball carrier aims to present the ball back to his team on the ground effectively.
  5. The nearest attackers and defender decide whether to compete at the ruck or not.
  6. Then let the play develop, playing until the attack make a significant break, an infringement or the attack breaks down.
  7. As the players are resetting for the next go, challenge them to think differently, or pick out what’s gone well, so they can replicate that.
  8. Keep the playing area about 20m wide, but expand it if you have more players.


In essence, this is a decision making exercise, so there are lots of techniques that need to work for a decision to be effective.

  • In defence: Is the ruck contestable or can the defence get back on their feet to cover threats. Can the defence go forward or do they have to go sideways to cover an overlap. What are the best ways to keep defenders connected?
  • In attack: Attack where the defence isn’t. Pull the defence out of position and then change direction. Does the clearing passer know where to go?


Put the ball carrier facing the tackler, but two steps away, so there is at least some momentum going into the tackle.

Give rewards to the attacking for getting over the gain line. Or rewards to the defence for making a tackle over the gain line.

For more ways to develop rucks, try out:

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