About tackling

The rugby tackle, what to organise? One of the clubs who have a SuperCoach Online license asked me to come down and help their youth coaches to improve on their ability to learn proper tackling techniques. Great! tackling has always been one of my favourite parts of rugby coaching and I loved the opportunity to share my experiences.

Tackle is a difficult technique!

The first thing we need to understand is that tackling is a very complicated technique, where we need to do 10 -12 little steps in the correct order otherwise we end up on our backs or even injured. Executing the technique and have the players focus on all the steps at the same time is impossible, our mind can only focus on one – two KEY FACTORs during execution.


These are (more or less):

  1. Focus on target.
  2. Move forward into the tackle.
  3. Move in the axis of the ball carrier. (Inside shoulder)
  4. Look up! (= head in the neck)
  5. Move feet, get close to the ball carrier.
  6. Arms above the hips and in front of your body.
  7. Step in strong to make firm contact with the shoulder, head to the side (same foot – same shoulder).
  8. Wrap arms around the hips of the ball carrier, keep holding.
  9. Keep moving feet, finish the tackle.
  10. Come up on both feet and win the ball back.

So we need to break down the tackle into small bits and find suitable exercises for the individual bits, or we need to focus on the one-two KEY FACTORS during the exercise only and forget the rest (for now).

Tackle bags

For example: we love to tackle those tackle bags, but which key factor of the tackle are we learning? Step 5 and 6 perhaps but most of the time we take a huge dive and execute a tackle with the wrong footwork.

Or, if our footwork is wrong and we enter the tackle in a poor body position, it has already become impossible to finish on top.

So lots of things to consider.

Long Term Player Development and Tackle

I detailed the tackle development in the LTPD model I have set up for SuperCoach Online a long time ago already and presented it for the youth coaches during the clinic to give them an understanding of the tackle technique in the whole scheme of things.

Early age: being comfortable with making contact with the ground, with another player (conquering fear of falling);

FUNdamentals: tackling basics, this age we have the best window of opportunity to “burn” the correct pathways in the bodies;

L2T: further development of the tackle, perhaps different directions

T2T: Now the tackle will become part of a defensive system: the “Shadow Tackler” can come and steal the ball, tackle units;

T2C & T2W: More elaborate defensive systems, but keep polishing up the basic technique;


I took the coaches outside and we did lots of different exercises ourselves to get acquainted with the different key factors. The coaches had an opportunity to practise their feedback skills. It is important to give as much feedback as possible: specific – focussed, immediate.

SuperCoach Online and tackling

The SuperCoach Online database has been set-up to accommodate the tackle to defense development outlined above. After everybody got dirty outside we went back in and I showed how easy it is to include tackle in the trainingsprograms using the software.

Confident they could make big steps forward in the tackle department the workshop ended in the usual rugby social way…… Topic of the next workshop: how to develop Open Play!

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