Last week we talked about passing to a support player before contact, being the first option to look for in continuity. But if the support player is not close enough or the ball carrier cannot drag the defender enough to create space to pass into, then making contact with the defender is inevitable.
As the ball carrier, it is always advisable to make contact with the defender on your own terms and in that way give yourself the best chance of dominating the contact situation. As with passing before contact, it is vital to drag the defender to one side by running outside one of the defender’s shoulders. This depowers the defender and creates a space for your support player to exploit.
Once the ball carrier is sure they are destined to go into contact with the defender they need to prepare physically and mentally to make contact. The body position of the ball carrier just prior to contact is cruical in dominating the contact situation. It is too late to adjust ones body position after making contact. So prepartion is paramount.
The next important issue facing the ball carrier is to assess how the defender is attempting to engage the ball carrier. The defender usually attempts to engage the ball carrier in one of two ways. They either drop into a low body position and attempt to make a classic rugby tackle around the legs and below the hips of the ball carrier or they stay in an upright position and try to ‘Smother Tackle’ the ball carrier. (A Smother Tackle is a tackle where the tackler attempts to wrap up the ball carrier’s upper body with their arms and wrestle them to the ground) It is important the ball carrier makes this assessment prior to making contact, as by assessing the body language of the defender they will then know which technique to employ in the contact situation.
It is also important at this point to emphasise there are two distinct techniques involved in making contact the defender and the correct technique is determined by the body position of the defender prior to contact. This week we will deal with the defender attempting to tackle the ball carrier using the classic low tackle technique below the waist of the ball carrier.
Being tackled low (below the waist) offers a great possibility of offloading the ball to a support player. For that reason most modern defenders attempt to use the Smother Tackle (above the waist) which gives them the best opportunity of tagging the ball and preventing an offload. But it is worth keeping in mind that if the ball carrier does a good enough job of dragging the defender before contact and the defender does not react quickly enough by moving their feet into position, the low tackle may be the only option available to the defender.
If the defender attempts to make a low tackle the ball carrier should adopt the following technique to create the best opportunity of offloading the ball to a support player: The ball carrier should change the ball from both hands to carry it under their outside arm (arm furthest from the tackler). Keep the ball wrapped tightly under the outside arm. This ensures the ball safe from being tagged or dislodged by the defender during the tackle and keeps the other arm free to fend the tackler.
Having dragged the defender, by running outside one of their shoulders, the ball carrier should now square up their hips and run hard and straight at the defender. On making contact with the defender try to make first contact with the inside hip (the hip closest to the defender). This give the ball carrier the best chance of dominating the contact situation. Should the ball carrier make contact initially with the outside hip it gives the tackler a soft target i.e. the ball carrier’s midriff to drive into. In this situation it is difficult for the ball carrier to dominate the contact.
Once initial contact is made with the tackler the ball carrier should keep their hips square (parallel to the goal line) and drive with their legs to ensure they win the collision. They should continue to aggressively drive past the defender (even though the defender is still in contact with their arms wrapped around the ball carrier’s legs).
If the ball carrier succeeds in dominating the contact completely the tackler may fail to bring the ball carrier to ground and the next play may be made by the ball carrier in a standing position. But even if the defender is successful in completing the tackle and the ball carrier is being brought to ground the next play is exactly the same whether they are standing or falling. That play is the ‘Offload’ to the support player.
To execute the offload securely the ball carrier should return the ball to both hands and turn their body back towards the space they just dragged the defender from. Lead with the outside leg (leg furthest from the tackler) and turn back into the space, created by dragging the defender. This achieves two things: It brings the ball carrier into eye contact with the support player and allows the ball carrier to execute the offload pass accurately.
The support player, as advised in passing before contact, is supporting directly behind the ball carrier. From that position they time their run at pace into the space vacated by the defender and take the offload pass from the ball carrier. The ball carrier can make the offload pass to the support player from a standing position (if they have dominated the contact situation), while they are falling to the ground or immediately after they have hit the ground.
As with the pass before contact, the offload pass is a pop pass to accommodate the support player running at pace. A tip to the ball carrier is, if the pop pass is slightly inaccurate, it is better to pop pass the ball a little too high than a little too low. A support player running at pace has much better chance of catching a pass that is slightly too high than slightly too low.
If for some reason there is no support player available to take the pop pass and the tackler takes the ball carrier to ground, the ball carrier will still be in position on the ground to place the ball in preparation for setting up the ruck.
Key Factors of Offloading from Low Tackle:
- Ball Carrier – Drag the defender & turn their shoulders
- Ball Carrier – Wrap the ball in the outside arm (away from defender)
- Ball Carrier – Lead into contact with the inside hip
- Ball Carrier – Keep hips square (parallel to goal line)
- Ball Carrier – Drive hard with legs (keep your legs alive!)
- Ball Carrier – Only turn when falling or stopped going forward
- Ball Carrier – Step forward (lead) with the outside leg when turning
- Ball Carrier – Turn in towards the space inside the tackler
- Support Player – Attack the space inside the tackler
- Ball Carrier – Make eye contact with the support player
- Ball Carrier – Offload to support player inside the tackler
- Support Player – Accelerate onto offload
Neat week we will look at offloading from the Smother Tackle.