Following last weeks episode on the tackle, episode ten of our ‘Rugby 101’ video series is an educational masterclass on the contest that immediately follows every tackle: the breakdown.

Beginning with a refresher on the ruck, pro player Neets Gericke explains how a ruck forms when at least one player from each side is in contact on their feet over the ball. Once this happens, players may not use their hands for the ball, and must instead drive over the ruck with their feet. When a ruck has been won, an offsides line is set, at the hindmost foot of the last defender who has entered the ruck.

On the training ground, our players act out the roles and responsibilities of all players involved in the breakdown, along with actions to avoid in order to not be penalized. Coming through the gate, keeping a stable body profile in contact, and finding acceptable “windows” to attack for cleanouts are crucial to both player safety and team success.

Defensively, a few things must happen at every breakdown. First, the tackler must roll away, to avoid being penalized for killing the ball. Any assisting tackler must first release the tackled player, in order to then compete for the turnover.

For either side, beating your opponent in the race to each breakdown is extremely valuable, and can be the difference between a success and a failure. In the instance where both players converge at the breakdown, if the defender still goes for the steal, a referee may verbalize a call to take their hands out of the ruck. At this time, the defenders best move would be to counter-ruck, driving their legs to try and push the supporting attacker off the ball.

The video ends with a drill progression that’s easy to replicate, and practices good habits for the players. We hope you’ve enjoyed our series so far, and look out for our next video on kicking.