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Five Tips for Tackling in Rugby
In football it is very common to see players diving at each other. In rugby players must wrap their arms around opposing players. Not wrapping is illegal in rugby and could result in a penalty, yellow card, red card, ejection, and/or league suspension.
Here are five things I keep in mind when I make a proper tackle in rugby:
Tracking: I try to imagine myself as the mirror image of the runner. Since we are facing each other, if he goes right, I go left or if he goes left, I go right. Also, it is important to try to match or exceed the foot speed of the ball carrier. If I go into a tackle at a slower pace than my opponent, then I will be the one who eats the turf.
Eyes on Navel: In order to avoid getting juked, I always keep my eyes focused on the ball carrier's belly button. The navel is directly in the center of a player's body and is the perfect target for a tackler to zone in on.
Keep Elbows In - Often tacklers in rugby will extend their arms as if trying show their wingspan. This elongates your muscles and essentially makes them weaker. Additionally, this method will leave your shoulder, elbow, and wrist joints all more susceptible to injury. When I go in for a tackle, I pretend I am receiving a pass. My elbows are bent and my hands are no farther than shoulder-width apart. This method keeps my muscles contracted so that when I tackle the ball carrier my arm, shoulder, chest, and core muscles are shorter, stronger, and more powerful.
Step into Ball Carrier's Space - As ridiculous as it sounds, I always pretend there is a hula-hoop around the ball carrier's waist. For my final step before the tackle, I want step into that player's imaginary hula-hoop. This will keep my body low so that I can take out the opposing player at the knees. Personally, I am 6'4" so this step is imperative as often getting low is one of the biggest issues for myself.
Keep Head Up - No, this isn't for after you missed a tackle and are starting to get down on yourself . Just before the tackle it is important to keep your head up, still on the player's naval. The common fear here is breaking the nose. However, if you keep your head down, your neck is more vulnerable to injury. I think anyone would agree that breaking a nose is much less severe than breaking a neck.