Category: Technical and Tactical Skill

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.

Rugby-style tackling in American Football


There’s less than a week left until the kick-off of the 2016/2017 NFL season. The question is, will we see more coaches implementing rugby tackle training into their practice sessions?

The current Seattle Seahawks coach, Pete Carroll, has overseen the introduction of rugby tackle technique training in his team’s practice sessions since he took over in 2010. The emphasis of this is to use the shoulder as the primary point of contact during tackling and to avoid direct contact with the head. Here is the franchise’s tackling instructional video for those of you who have not yet seen it. The Seahawks boast quite an impressive recent performance record as they have qualified for the play-offs in five of the past six seasons, were winners of Super Bowl XLVIII in the 2013/2014 season, and were runners-up in Super Bowl XLIX in the 2014/2015 season. Their success is often attributed to their highly efficient and stingy defensive unit. Could this be in part due to the introduction of this rugby tackling protocol?

Research has shown that certain tackling technical criteria are associated with successful tackle outcomes in professional rugby union(Hendricks et al., 2014). Some of these correct tackling cues have also recently been shown to reduce the probability of an injury outcome in general injuries (Burger et al., 2016) and for concussions (Hendricks et al., 2015) in high-level under-18 South African rugby union players. There is limited research exploring the detailed characteristics of tackle technique and associated performance and injury outcomes in American Football (AF). It is worth noting that ‘spear tackling’ in AF i.e. using the helmet as a weapon during head-first tackles, has been outlawed due to the potential risk of catastrophic head and neck injuries (Heck et al., 2004; Boden et al., 2007). It may be valuable to assess the discrete differences between traditional rugby and AF tackling techniques to determine if there are indeed differences in safety and performance outcomes.


Nicholas Burger @it_is_burger

(PhD Candidate)