How Do I Get Better At Tackling?

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – SEPTEMBER 07: Michael Hooper of the Wallabies tackles Bryan Habana of the Springboks during The Rugby Championship match between the Australian Wallabies and the South African Springboks at Suncorp Stadium on September 7, 2013 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

If you want to become a good rugby player you need to be as strong in defense as you are in attack. This means you need to be able to tackle rampaging players regularly and rarely miss tackles. With the average player weighing north of 100kg and many players sprinting 9m/s, this is no easy feat. So how exactly do you improve your tackling ability?

How do I get better at tackling?

To get better at tackling you need to improve your body position, stepping in close with straight back and neck. You need to improve your technique, driving off your back leg, making solid contact with your shoulder below the rib cage and using your legs to finish the tackle. You need to increase your strength so you can perform tackles more easily.

Tackling is not taught very well in rugby. There is a lack of technical refinement. Many coaches will often not know the difference between a bad, average and great tackle. They will not be able to give you little tips that can make a huge difference in your tackling ability. We will breakdown all the technical details you need to know to turn you into a tackling machine.

What Is The Ideal Body Position When Tackling?

When tackling you need to stand in a staggered stance, similar to a wrestling stance with one foot in front of the other and your weight on your back foot. You need to place your front foot as close to your opposition as possible and then squat down so you are looking at your opposition’s lower rib cage. Your back should be flat and your head should be slightly looking up.

Body position is so important in tackling and in any physical movement where you are trying to generate force. For example let’s look at another rugby example to demonstrate this point. If you try to lift a lineout jumper with your arms without engaging your legs and hips it will be extremely difficult and your jumper is going to feel like he weighs 200kg. 

Now if you lift that same player but this time you squat down with straight back, drive off the ground utilising your power legs muscles and snap your hips, you will effortlessly lift your jumper into the heavens.  

This same concept is applied to tackling. If you get into the aforementioned position before everytime you make a tackle you will be shocked at the increased power you will be generating. You will be knocking people over with ease. This will not only improve your tackling but it will have a positive impact on your overall rugby play because your tackling technique will be so efficient you won’t be nearly as fatigued when you are running with the ball, cleaning out and kicking.

How To Make Contact During A Rugby Tackle?

When tackling in rugby you need to make contact with your shoulder first after driving off your back leg to give you extra power. Your shoulder should hit your opposition between their thighs and lower rib cage. After hitting them your shoulder, drive with your legs and wrap your arms around their legs.

Beginner rugby players often make many mistakes during the contact phase of a rugby tackle which causes their tackle effectiveness to skydive. If you want to ensure when you hit the opposition on the rugby pitch they stay hit please incorporate the following advice:

Your power during a rugby tackle comes from your legs. When making initial contact, place your weight on your back foot and drive aggressively off the ground. Think of yourself taking a big leap forward. By doing this your power will skyrocket, don’t be surprised if your opposition are routinely driven backwards when you do this correctly. 

Once you have launched yourself at your opposition it is time to hit them with your shoulder. Make sure you get your head out of the way of your opposition otherwise you risk suffering a nasty concussion. Many players do not get low enough. To put on a good hit lower your body height by squatting down and hit your opposition anywhere from their thighs to lower ribcage. You need to visualise your shoulder going through your opposition.

After making contact with your shoulder your job is not done. A common mistake you see when rugby players are tackling is that they will briefly pause after making contact with their shoulder. This gives their opposition a chance to absorb the hit and keep running.

If you want to ensure your opposition isn’t going anywhere you need to pump your legs and run through your opposition. As you are running and driving your opposition backwards wrap your arms tightly around their legs and squeeze your elbows together. Your opposition will go over and crash to the ground every time. 

One thing to remember is to always drive your opposition to the opposite side to where your head is. You don’t want a 100kg man falling on your neck.

Will Strength Make You A Better Rugby Tackler?

The stronger you are, the easier it will be to tackle during rugby. The stronger you are the more force you can generate which can be used to effortlessly tackle opposition players. Strength combined with technique = a master tackler.

Strength is very important in rugby tackling. It doesn’t matter if you have the greatest tackling technique in the world if you only weigh 60kg and are struggling to bench press your bodyweight your chance of taking down a rampaging 110kg number 8 who is sprinting towards you is very low. There is a reason why even professional half backs weigh on average 85kg. Strength is a necessity in rugby.

Strength alone is not enough to make you a great rugby tackler. You could put a powerlifter who can deadlift 300kg for reps on the rugby pitch and if he got a good hold of you then yes he probably could wrestle to the ground but his chance of tackling anyone in the open field will be very low. You need the technique to match your strength

If you have watched professional rugby you will notice that all players are great at tackling. You can not reach the pinnacles of rugby in the professional era without being an all round great player. You will also have noticed that professional rugby players are both very strong and have great tackling technique. When these two attributes are combined is when you have players with amazing tackling skills.

At the end of the day you can never be strong for rugby. If you want some tips to bulk up and turn yourself into the hulk follow the link. 


If you are a young aspiring rugby player and looking to improve your tackling ability you probably could benefit from improving both your tackling technique and your overall strength. If you follow the advice laid out in this article you should be able to turn yourself into the next Richie McCaw in no time. Just remember to get low, keep your back straight, use those legs and hit hard with your shoulder.

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