Tag Rugby Drills

by Henry Francis
There is no scrimmage in tag rugby as this is a full-contact maneuver.

There is no scrimmage in tag rugby as this is a full-contact maneuver.

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Known as "rippa" in New Zealand, tag rules in rugby are a useful training aid, allowing players to focus on technique rather than strength and power. Using tag training drills also limits the number of injuries that can be sustained in training and during warm-ups.

Drawing the Tackle

Players move sideways more often in touch rugby. This is because they cannot attempt to break the defensive line using force as they would in full contact. This limits their attacking opportunities, however. One useful drill gets attackers running directly at the defensive line to practice drawing the tackler toward them. Line up an equal number of defensive and attacking players, such as five vs. five, in two lines 20 yards opposite each other. Give the attacking player on one end of the line the ball and tell him to run directly at the defensive line, only passing to a teammate when he is within 2 yards of the tackler. The skill is getting the attacker to practice drawing the tackle while defensive players must practice not overcommitting, which can lead to missed tackles.


Set up this drill to encourage fair tag rugby tackling and attacking and defensive movement. Using cones, mark out a 10-by-10-meter square and line up four equal-sized groups at each corner of the square. Designate a pair of lines opposite each other as attackers and the other two lines as defenders. Give the leading man in one line of attackers a ball and tell him his objective is to reach the opposite corner of the square and hand off the ball to the leading attacker in the opposite corner. One of the leading defenders from the other two corners takes turns attempting to touch tackle the attacker, preventing him crossing the square. If a touch tackle is successful, reward the defense with one point. If the player crosses the square, reward the attack with three points.

No Mistake Touch

Carry out this drill, which encourages players to move constantly, penalizes players who are not fully mobile and involves players in both offense and defense. The drill is also a great fitness workout. Inform your players that normal rugby rules apply, except that you are touch tackling rather than full contact. The attacking line must pass the ball among itself and attempt to score a try. However, instruct your attackers that only players who are moving are allowed to receive the ball. If a player receives the ball and is not moving, penalize him with a lap of the whole pitch. If an attacker is touch tackled, he must roll the ball backward through his legs in rugby league style and the defense must retreat three meters. The ball is turned over -- making the attacking team the defenders and vice versa -- whenever attackers knock the ball, play a forward pass or play the ball into touch.

British Bulldogs

This drill puts a rugby spin on a classic playground game. Line up twice as many attackers as you have defenders -- such as 10 attackers running at five defenders -- and mark out a cone corridor that should be 3 meters wide for each attacker and 22 meters long. For example, with 10 attackers, you would need a 30-meter wide corridor. Attackers must get from one line to the other without getting tagged by a defender, while defenders must tag as many attackers as they can. Instruct attackers to run from the try line to the 22 and wait until you blow the whistle, which you will do once all attackers are eliminated from the game after receiving a tag or have made it to the other side. Line the players up and get them to run back from the 22 to the try line. The winner of the game is the last attacker who has not been tagged.

About the Author

I have been involved in coaching and administration of youth soccer with the Herts FA for several years. I have many years experience with the technical side and equipment of soccer, cricket, rugby, snooker and poker. I studied the health and fitness and dietary side of competitive sport while at University. Currently, I am not ready for on-camera opportunities, but this could change with access to training and equipment.

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