BLOG 8 COACHES CORNER: The good, the bad and the rugby! It’s all about presentation…

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Question – What is it? Answer – A weekly blog exploring and developing the theme of COACHING.

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Written & compiled by:

Nathan Moore: BSc (Hons) Sports Science, P.G.C.E
Founder of NM Sports Performance,
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BLOG 8 COACHES CORNER: The good, the bad and the rugby! It’s all about presentation…

After a few weeks looking at what happens outside of the rugby pitch I thought it was time to have a look at a technical issue within the game. This week it will be all to do with “rucks” and in particular retaining possession through the best way of ball presentation.
The International Rugby Boards classification of a ruck is:
“…a phase of play where one or more players from each team, who are on
their feet, in physical contact, close around the ball on the ground. Open play has
ended. Players are rucking when they are in a ruck and using their feet to try to win or
keep possession of the ball, without being guilty of foul play.” (IRB 2011)
This seems relatively simple doesn’t it? However this is one of the most contested areas and has the most variation in interpretation by referees. One such interpretation is when does a player enter a ruck offside (often hearing “Not through the gate!” shouted by referees) or legally? So what is this gate? You can go looking for an answer in the IRB’s law book but you may have a hard time finding it, or if you don’t then I applaud you as I was unable to source it.
Needless to say it does exist and is, in its simplest form the length of the ball carrier’s body as he lies on the ground. This is shown in diagram 1.

The only way that a player is allowed to enter the ruck in diagram 1 is through the gate, if he/she enters the way of the red arrows, 9 times out of 10 a referee will penalise the player. I say 9 times as there are always pieces of evidence when a player gets away with the infringement, but look, it’s why we love the sport!
So if the gate is wide then it allows more players to enter the ruck and contest the ball (counter-ruck), which would make one think that to eliminate the opposition from counter rucking then by narrowing the gate the opposition shouldn’t have the capabilities of contesting your possession.
Many coaches now are educating their player to fall in the “Long-body” or “Salmon” technique instead of the parallel way as we have been taught as a young player learning the game. The parallel technique is the one shown above in diagram one and the “Long-body/Salmon” technique are shown below.
Diagram 2:

As diagram two shows with the “Long-body” technique the gate is narrowed and means that opposing players only have a small entrance to the ruck with any other entrance theoretically offside and a penalty infringement. Again I say theoretically as we have all yelled and shouted at the TV screen when our team miss out on a penalty opportunity by a player hurtling in from the side of a ruck and ruining a flow of attack.
Now we know the differences in the techniques and the potential benefits, the important aspect is, how does a player execute the skill? The old “parallel” version is quite easy and is about trying to beat a defender and when the tackle is instigated falling around the back of the defender with the age ole “Knee, Hip Shoulder” fall and then full length place of the ball with outstretched arms. The new version is a little bit harder; it requires an extra movement by the ball carrier and more strength on this player in falling behind the defenders back. So when the ball carrying player is trying to beat the defender by good footwork and is tackled, he needs to rotate his body slightly further as he/she falls, or move quickly when they hit the ground to move into the position where their head is facing his/her own team-mates or posts (as in diagram 2). This then narrows the gate and should allow a more efficient and quick transfer of the ball away from the ruck by the scrum-half.
This technique is best worked on in a competitive tackling drill as just learning the falling technique will not prepare the ball carrier for the different styles of tackle that may happen in the game.
So to recap:

Next week we’ll look at how to build the ruck around the two different ball presentations and see just how we ruck when exposed to this in a game.

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