Are Chop Tackles Legal In Rugby?

Chop tackles started becoming extremely popular in rugby in the 2010s. They were used to bring down rampaging forwards without exerting large amounts of energy. Wales, particularly excelled in chop tackles. However, coaches, players and referees have been concerned about the potential injuries these tackles cause. Let’s explore if they are legal!

What Is A Chop Tackle in Rugby?

A chop tackle involves tackling a rugby ball runner below the knee. Players will crouch very low and make contact with their shoulder as close to the ball runner’s ankle as possible. The tackler will then wrap their arms around the player’s legs.

Chop tackles are extremely effective and the ball runner comes crashing down to the ground almost immediately irrespective of the speed they are running at. 

Some players get so low that they literally dive at the ball runner’s ankles and no matter how big the ball runner is they collapse to the ground. Massive locks, props and number 8s aren’t strong enough to deal with a well timed chop tackle!

What is the Aim of a Chop Tackle?

The aim of a chop tackle is to bring down a ball runner as quickly as possible while preventing them from using leg drive to break the tackle or gain additional meters. 

Chop tackles are effective because many players have massive thighs but very few have large ankles. A rugby player’s ankles are vulnerable, once a player hits them with their shoulder and wraps around the lower legs with their arms, ball runners fall down remarkably easily.  

Who is the Best Rugby Chop Tackler? 

The best rugby chop tackler of all time is Dan Lydiate. The Welsh flanker was famous for throwing himself at the ankles of massive forwards and stop them dead in their tracks

Dany Lydiate may have the best tackling technique ever. He would get super low to the ground, move towards the ball carrier and launch himself below their knee. He would always wrap his arms around the ball runner’s legs so they had nowhere to go. It is amazing to watch him regularly force 250 pound rugby forwards behind the advantage line.

Chop tackles Have Been Around Forever

The standard rugby tackling technique involves driving with your shoulder into the thigh of the ball carrier and then wrapping your arms around their knees.

Some players quickly found out that if you tackle a bit below the thighs it becomes much easier to stop a rampaging ball runner. The problem with chop tackles is that it makes it easy for the ball runner to off load the ball or get a nice big long place.

Chop tackles are most effective when you have one player aiming at the ball runner’s chest and the other playing tackling low around the ankles. This way the ball runner hits the ground quickly and the off load is prevented and there is a chance for a turnover.

Are Chop Tackles Legal In Rugby?

Chop tackles are legal in rugby as long as the tackler makes an effort to wrap their arms around the ball runner’s legs. If the tackler just dives at the ball runner’s ankles or knees then it is an illegal tackle.

If a rugby player makes a chop tackle without using his arms then he will be penalized and may be sent off. Referees have been instructed to crack down on chop tackles because they can result in nasty knee injuries. The diving shoulder of the chop tackler can cause the ball runner’s knee to bend in all sorts of terrible directions.

Chop tackles are also quite dangerous for the tackler because if you don’t time it correctly or fail to low enough you can cop the ball runner’s knee right in your head which can result in a serious injury. 

To ensure you chop tackle effectively make sure you get super and come into the tackle at a slight angle so you don’t get caught head on in front of the ball runner’s rampaging knees. The other important detail is you need to keep your eye on the opponent. Don’t look down at the grass otherwise you can easily miss your tackle and end up with a mouthful of grass! 


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