Rate these 5 elements before you introduce or buy new equipment for rugby training

“A fool with a tool, is still a fool”

This article was brought about by a tweet from our friend Arend Neethling @ProvinceFan – a big supporter of the game of rugby.

The tweet related specifically to an American Football tackle training device (the Mobile Virtual Player, MVP), applied to rugby. Below are 5 elements to look out for and rate out of 5 (1=Not at all and 5=Maximal) before introducing or buying new equipment for rugby training.

Is it representative of match playing conditions?

It is an extension of the tackle bag (which we’ve recommended not using before https://rugbyscientists.com/2015/03/23/why-are-we-still-using-the-tackle-bag-to-train-tackling/). It has the element of moving towards the player and change direction. In the video, the speed does not seem match like and I can’t comment on the height, weight and feel of the bag.

Score  = 2.0

Is their potential for learning and transfer (to matches)?

For the young developing under the correct coaching instruction, potentially. However, based on the video, players seem to interact with it the same way they do with the other foam equipment – diving into contact, no hit-stick and leg drive.

Score  = 1.5

Will it improve the safety of player in matches (not only training)?

Based on the above the above two considerations, I highly doubt it.


Cost and Usability?

$825 dollars for one. That’s 579 GBP or 10 000 ZAR.


Does facilitate the coaching process?

For a young developing player, I think a coach with a good understanding of coaching contact techniques can use the MVP as a step towards 1v1 live contact. For the experienced youth player and upwards, not so much.


Based on the above evaluation, the MVP scores 7/25.

Let us know your rating based on the above 5 elements?


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.