ARU – Smart Rugby – The Tackle

The majority of injuries in Rugby occur at the tackle. Referees must be diligent in the Law of the game so they can monitor the height of tackles to ensure the safety of players.
No tackle can be made above the armpits. High tackles are dangerous and referees will be strict and act accordingly. 
You may not be aware but the ball carrier is the person at most risk at a tackle so it’s the coaches responsibility to teach players how to carry the ball into contact and how to fall to ground safely.
Tacklers are a referees priority after a tackle is made. They must release and roll away so that continuity of play can occur. Once the tackler has moved away we focus on the tackled player making sure that they exercise their options – placing the ball; rolling the ball or passing the ball from the ground ….immediately.
Finally, we look at the arriving players around the tackle and make sure they are arriving through the ‘gate’ and that they are being positive in their play and not attempting to seal the ball off to the opposition.
Players who ‘drive out’ opponents must do so within 1metre of the ball and must use their arms.
In relation to using arms in tackles, I’ll re-inforce that shoulder charges are dangerous as are lifting and spearing tackles. In the case of lifting or spearing tackles the referee will send the responsible players from the field.
ARU Smart Rugby – Tackle Definition
In order for a tackle to tackle to take place, a ball carrier must be held by an opponent, and brought to ground by that opponent.  
If the ball carrier is not held, then no tackle has taken place. This often is the case in an ankle tap scenario or when a player goes to ground to secure a loose ball. In both these scenarios, the player with the ball may get straight to his feet. Arriving players must stay on their feet and cannot dive on the player while they are on the ground. They may go straight for the ball, in which case the player on the ground must pass or release the ball.
At a tackle, once the ball carrier is held by an opponent and brought to ground, then the player who has been tackled is now known as the tackled player. The opponent who goes to ground is known as the tackler.
What if a player making a tackle does not go to ground? We still have a tackle if a ball carrier has been held by an opponent and brought to ground. So there is a tackle and the tackle Laws apply. The player who has been tackled is known as the tackled player. The player who brings him to ground but remains on his feet is, however, NOT a tackler. What we have here is an odd situation – a tackle, but with no tackler! Why this is important is made clear in the section “Arriving Players”.

ARU Smart Rugby – Tackler
According to the Law book, the tackler must release immediately, and the tackled player must play the ball immediately. Who does the referee concentrate on first? There are rare occasions when the tackled player might be looked at first – such as a team is driven back behind the advantage line and the tackled player is turned to the opposition. But in almost all cases, the tackler is the first port of call.
What must the tackler do? First he must release the player on the ground. Then he has a choice: get to his feet, or roll away. A tackler who gets to his feet does not need to worry about any gate. He can play the ball from any position so long as he’s gone to ground in the act of making the tackle and a ruck hasn’t formed yet. If he’s not in a position to get to his feet, he must roll away. Not rolling away is a penalty kick.
If there is a tackle, but the person making the tackle never went to ground and remains on their feet then this player is not a tackler. If the player is already standing on his side
of the tackle (i.e. in the gate), he may play the ball but must release the ball carrier before attempting to play the ball.

ARU Smart Rugby – Tackled Player
The tackled player must play the ball, by either passing off the ground, handing the ball off, rolling it or placing it. Most coaches encourage a good long place. A player may also place the ball forward, especially if close to the goal line to score a try.
How long does the player have to release the ball? In short, the player on the ground has as long as it takes for a player on their feet to contest the ball. If there’s no-one trying to play
the ball, the tackler player has more time to exercise their options. But once a player is on their feet trying to play the ball, the tackled player has run out of time and must release the ball to them immediately. Failing to do so is a penalty kick.
If he’s in open space, the tackled player may also release the ball, get to his feet, pick the ball up, and continue running.

ARU Smart Rugby – Arriving Players
Once the referee has looked at the tackler and the tackled player, the next issue is the arrival of other players to contest possession at the tackle. Arriving players must do 2 things:

  1. stay on their feet and 
  2. enter through the gate.

On the issue of staying on their feet, referees are looking for players to be a plane taking off, rather than a plane landing. Going off your feet to deny the opposition the ability to contest the ball is a penalty kick.

If a player goes off his feet due to weak opposition or because players performing a positive action driving through lose their footing, the referee should play on.
ARU Smart Rugby – The Gate
The ‘gate’ itself is not in the Law Book. It is a construct we use to explain the Law which says a player must approach the tackle from behind the ball, and behind the player closest to his goal line.
Arriving players must approach from the direction of their own goal line. You cannot play opposition players outside of this gate – this is obstruction. Not entering through the gate is a penalty kick.
The only people who do not need to worry about the gate are the tackler and the tackled player.
In the situation where we have a tackle with no tackler and the player who made the tackle is standing on the opposition side of the tackle, this player cannot play the ball from here, but must release, and come back around and through the gate in order to play the ball.

ARU Smart Rugby – Offside Tackle
There is no such thing as offside at a tackle. Until a ruck forms, players can stand anywhere across the field they wish. If the ball emerges from the tackle, any player regardless of where
they are standing may make a further tackle, or intercept the pass and it should be play on. Although this might look wrong, it is general play. Once a player comes within a metre
of the tackle contest, he must now enter through the gate.
In order for a player to be offside, a ruck must form over the ball on the ground. As soon as this forms, players must move back to an offside line running through the last feet of their team in the ruck.

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