Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching


Dangerous rugby tackles: get real by David Clarke
July 26, 2010, 8:18 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, rugby defence, Rugby News | Tags: , , ,

Three hours after the Jacques Fourie and Quade Cooper received yellow cards in the Australia v South Africa international, I watched one of my players being taken to hopsital after a tackle. I am happy to say the player was able to travel home that night.

Don’t be misled by the immediate reactions to the Fourie and Cooper incidents, and the Jean de Villiers and Rene Ranger tackles of the previous week. Let’s put tackling into its true context.

First, a tackle in rugby law is the only legal method of preventing the progress the ball carrier in open play. The tackle can be made anywhere on the body, but not the neck or head. The tackle must be made with the arms (hands), and the ball carrier cannot be pushed. If the legs of the ball carrier are lifted above the hips, this is judged to be a dangerous tackle.

Second, tackles are a mental tool to impose pressure on the attacking team. A strong tackle plants the seed of doubt in the mind of a ball carrier. A very physical tackle does this more. This has always been the case.

A player who is braced for a hard tackle is different to a player who is the act of passing or is twisted by a previous contact. “Tip tackles”, which are a slightly less dangerous version of the “spear tackle” are most likely on the “unaware” player. A tip tackle has the ball carrier tipped onto his shoulder, whereas the spear tackle drives the ball carrier into the ground.

Work your way through the circumstances for a tip tackle and you will see it does not need to happen. Basically it is a cheap shot. Watch the two tackles in the clip and neither are particularly aggressive tackles. The tackled player is not braced for the tackle because he has passed the ball.

Recommendation: Yellow Card
Why? Because if players know that they will spend 10 minutes in the bin for this action, then they won’t do it.
Suspensions as well?
Why not…for the same reason.

Better Rugby Coaching

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17 Comments so far
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We’re not playing tiddly winks you know…

10 in the bin is tough – suspensions after the fact, double jeopardy. No harm no foul, play on.

Comment by Tana Umaga

If I were playing tiddly winks and someone cheated, I’d call them a cheat. I’d expect the officials to spot it and rule in my favour. Ditto rugby.

It doesn’t matter what the activity – cheap shots are cheap shots. They should be dealt with hard and fast, and then at leisure and more severly if necessary.

Comment by BOD

I just don’t think that either of those tackles was severe enought to warrant 10 minutes AND suspensions. Neither were particularly malicious. There was a bit of tipping involved, so they went to the bin, that should be the end of it.

Comment by Tana Umaga

The question to be asked – if the referee is the sole judge of law on the field of play and he did not suspend the player by issueing the red card then why do we have a double up – this simply infers that the referee failed in his duty as did the two assistant referee’s in that he failed to come to the correct conclusion or was provided with the incorrect information – The central referee made a decision why do we now make the statement that the decision was incorrect – do we know suspend the referee – if not why not he to made the incorrect decision.- this undermines the role of the central referee

Comment by Jock

I think the point is being missed here. A tip tackle CAN be dangerous that is why it is illegal Law 10.4J. Often as in these cases it did not cause harm to the tackled player. The laws are there to ensure the game is safe. If a player lifts another off the ground it is his responsibility to ensure the player is taken to ground safely. The law deems head first is not a good idea and doing this is not safe. The player who lifts has no control over how the the othe rplayer gets to ground. He just hopes it is ok. These are top professionals and even then one time out of so many someone will be injured, so do we just penalise that case? No the rules are for all levels of rugby at present and in the games I referee the players do not have the skill and technique of the pros. They emulate the action they see on the TV and you end up in hospital. The pros are better than this and know that this is illegal and if they do it they will end up in the bin. What do you say to the player who is paralysed. Well it is usually safe?

Comment by Iain Mackenzie

To add to the comment by “Jock” i think that we have a sport that is seeing more and more “off the ball” incidents and that players at the top level must know that they are more than likely to be spotted, if not during the game then after. This is good..there is no room for the cheap shots that happen “off the the ball” and therefore it is vital that the review process continues. If it does not these role model players send the wrong message to young players. Referees do not set out to make bad decisions but they happen and this will always be the case – the simple fact is whether they see the incident or not should not allow cynical play to go unpunished.
What I find hard to understand in this era of mutiple TV cameras whyt the players think that they will get away with it in the first place. As to the tackiles in the video possibly harsh decisions but rules are rules.

Comment by Harry Reilly

These two tackles are not the same thing. And while we are now being technical about how rugby tackles are to be judged, then it has to be noted that Cooper goes all the way to fall with his body weight onto the tackled player, who could have broken his shoulder or neck in the process. Fourie on the other hand remains on his feet, and the tackled player falls to ground with no extra weight but that of his own body. How Cooper only got a 2 week suspension for his effort and Fourie 4 weeks, can only be understood when seen in the light of the blatant inconsistency by officials in this years Tri-Nations.
It is furthermore very sad to see how playing ‘within the rules’ are being neglected in other parts of the game, where McCaw and Pocock are given freedom of town. I believe rugby has always been valuable in teaching young players about life. While it is therefore important that illegal tackling is penalized and we teach them about controlled aggression, how hypocritical then, when at the top level they are taught that it’s OK to break other laws, as long as you don’t get caught?

Comment by Kobus du Plessis

Difference between Cooper & Fourie’s tackle is that Cooper’s was actually MORE ‘legal’- i.e. he had hands on th player at all times, while Fourie’s was a shoulder hit & throw down i.e. he didnt bring the player down safely…

I am a Bok supporter & while we have had some tough decisions against us, when i take the blinkers off, we have sometimes deserved it (i.e. by playing dirty) there IS a difference between being aggresive & being dirty- pro players ought to be exemplars within the game…

Comment by Supercoach

I didn’t think either tackles were yellow cards, but the referee was at least consistent with his rulings. By suspending the players the judiciary is saying the referee got it wrong and they should be red cards instead of yellow. The referee and the assistents reported and made the call end of story. The video review should only be for incidents not spotted by the referee. eg the Bakkies Botha head butt

Comment by Alex chang

I agree that the issue is the possibility of injury. Tip tackles can be very serious spear tackle more so. I thought Coopers tackle a spear tackle. To answer Kobus, Fourie was sighted in last years tri-nations for the same offence and was therefore seen as a repeat offender. In Jacques case his basic error is that he hits the runner and grabs the legs while lifting. Hitting upwards and lifting is a good idea but the hit should be above the centre of mass at belly button height(?)going through and up towards the floating rib attachment on the spine in the slice tackle or the aggressive knock back tackle. This reduces the likely hood of rotation (or tipping) of the ball carrier. Also if the defender looks up eyes towards the horizon then the arms will rap where the eyes look, if you look down at contact the arms will wrap much lower like around the legs, any lifting will result in the runner tipping(as with Jacques tackle). I am not a big rugby league watcher, but have noticed that they mostly tackle higher than union players in head on tackles. It was explained to me that spear and tip tackles were (are) harshly treated with multi month bans (up to 6?) and this eliminated that type of dangerous tackle almost instantly. Two techniques should be taught, if you want to drag and drop the opponent (classic old school tackle) then take his legs and drag him down, if you want to tackle back (aggressive newer style), go above the waist (as described above). Lessons from other codes could well be learned in union.

Kobus I think that a large number of South Africans (including me) feel that our players get singled out more often than opponents players for similar offences, but that is probably because our players are less subtle at offending and we are a bit more one eyed as supporters. But in the land of the blind the one eyed man is king:-)

Comment by Nick Tatalias

Harden up people, it’s Test rugby ! With the sort of tackle made by Cooper after the fact “you rolls the dice you takes your chances” it was obviously designed to put Steyn (a known sook) off his game and it backfired. The whinging and arm flailing on his feet showed Steyn was not hurt. This sort of stuff is not rampant in our game at any level though so settle down please !

Comment by Greg

Agree with inconsistency in decision making. Coopers offence is red card value vs Foure should be yellow. butt…

Comment by Clive Corbett

What planet’s Rugby do you come from?

‘Difference between Cooper & Fourie’s tackle is that Cooper’s was actually MORE ‘legal’- i.e. he had hands on th player at all times, while Fourie’s was a shoulder hit & throw down i.e. he didnt bring the player down safely…’

Thought the ref was good on his consistency actually & when it happened in the game, i thought he’d got away with it because he brought him down safely & if you have access to super slo mo/ match analysis software, you’ll see he comes down parallel to the floor, which is pretty safe from a landing perspective…

Comment by Supercoach

Dangerous – yellow card

Dealt with by the ref – no suspension (unless red)

Cheating and more cynical incicnets – see money in game/geater competition in Association Forrtball.

South African whinging about victimisation – nothing new.

Comment by chris dawson

..and cynical incidents too.

Comment by chris dawson

Shoulder charge tackles without any closure of the arms and dumping without accompanying the tackled player are done on purpose -in the knowledge that they are against the rules. Not a complicated refereeing call.
More of a problem I see is the increased playing of players without the ball e.g players supposedly joining the ruck ? Since when has it become legal to tackle/ man handle people without the ball ? Additionally we see much more “interference” running -both of these aspects are starting to bring Rugby closer in line with American Football !

Comment by Jonathan Rodwell

I’m amazed that players routinely get multiple week suspensions for a rough tackle in what’s supposed to be a tough game.

Comment by lol




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