Rugby has a tradition of sportsmanship, teamwork and courage. The physical aspect of the game from the grass roots right up to international level is an inherent component of this contact sport. The tackle is indispensable, with many teams using organised defence with a team pattern rather than a man-on-man style. Nonetheless, the individual one-on-one tackle still maintains a place of prominence and importance in the game.
Head injuries are a cause for concern at all levels, but particularly at school level with potential mismatches in body shapes and sizes coupled with immature but developing physiques. Taking the physical challenge out of rugby has been discussed, but it has been argued that to do so would detract from the game, rendering it unrecognisable and also losing its aerobic, physical and emotional benefits.
The focus then shifts to the refereeing and coaching of the physical aspects of the game, ensuring that the appropriate rugby training drills are in place with safe tackling techniques taught from an early age. The tackle can be broken down into three stages.
1. Facing the opponent, closing down space between the tackler and the ball carrier’s safe side to prevent the tackler’s head getting trapped between the ground and the opponent.
2. Line up the target area correctly to try to prevent the ball carrier releasing the ball, allowing the defending side an opportunity to regain possession. The hips/waist should be targeted with a low centre of gravity with legs bent for maximum thrust of impact and elbows and arms tucked in to minimise injury.
3. Utilising momentum to complete the tackle, felling the opponent.
Rugby training drills have evolved considerably in the internet age from the days of a coach in front of a flipchart, and specialised coaching templates can be found online from https://www.sportplan.net/drills/Rugby/. Pre-prepared defensive drills are available as well as plans allowing coaches to tailor and incorporate their own ideas, which are then presented in a group training environment and/or shared to individual players as necessary.
If safe structured training drills are taught at an early age, the benefits of playing rugby with its long traditions and prominence in the sporting world can be maintained, outweighing the potential risks of injury.