What techniques determine a good tackle and ruck in the Six Nations and Championship?

To answer this question we analysed a total of 4479 tackles (Championship = 1853 tackles; Six Nations = 2626 tackles) and 2914 rucks (Championship = 1234 tackles; Six Nations = 1680 tackles). We studied the actions of the ball-carrier and tackler upon contact and after contact was made in the tackle. Thereafter, we observed and described the activities of the attackers and defenders at the ruck. Here are some of the highlights…

Firstly, the difference (or lack thereof) in tackle and ruck event numbers between the Six Nations and Championship.


Next, the technical determinants…

The Tackle

  • Being tackled from the front reduced the likelihood of offloads and tackle breaks in both competitions.
  • Fending during contact increased the chances of offloading and breaking the tackle in both competitions.
  • Strong ball-carrier leg drive in the Six Nations increased the probability of offloading in the tackle.
  • To break the tackle, ball-carrier leg drive increased the probability of a positive outcome in both competitions.

The Ruck

  • Actively placing the ball increased the likelihood of maintaining possession.
  • In the Six Nations, ball-carriers falling sideward after the tackle had a higher probability of maintain- ing ball possession during the ruck contest.
  • In the Championship, having 3–5 defending players actively engaging in the ruck decreased the likelihood of the attacking team maintaining possession of the ball by 85%.


While coaches and coaching manuals might recommend some of these techniques, for example, front-on shoulder tackles, other contact techniques such as fending are not part of standard contact training. Therefore, these techniques should be incorporated and emphasised during training to pre- pare players for competition.

Full article:

Hendricks, Sharief, Tiffany van Niekerk, Drew Wade Sin, Mike Lambert, Steve den Hollander, James Brown, Willie Maree, Paul Treu, Kevin Till, and Ben Jones. “Technical determinants of tackle and ruck performance in International rugby union.” Journal of Sports Sciences (2017): 1-7.


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