Rugby coaching guide to understanding key ruck laws

This article offers a rugby coaching guide to rucking and the laws of the ruck.

A ruck can take place only in the field of play. It is a phase of play where one or more players from each team, who are on their feet, close around the ball on the ground. At least one player from each team must be in physical contact with an opponent.

How players must ruck

  • A player must join the ruck from behind the hindmost foot of the last team mate (the "gate"). The player is offside otherwise.
  • A player cannot loiter in front of the hindmost foot. The player is offside.

Rugby coaching guide to the key ruck laws - offside

  • A player must bind to the ruck with a full arm.
  • If on the ground in the ruck, a player must make every effort to move away from the ball.
  • A player cannot put a hand on the ball if it is on the ground ("hands in the ruck").
  • If the ball is not on the ground, for example it is held up by the tackled player, then a player can put their hands on the ball no matter who is around them.
  • A player cannot put their feet on another player in the ruck.

The end of the ruck

  • A successful end of a ruck is when the ball leaves the back of the ruck.
  • An unsuccessful end of a ruck is when the ball becomes unplayable. A scrum is awarded to the team moving forward before the end of the ruck.

Make the ball carrier work harder

Stay on your feet

Players need to stay on their feet for longer in the tackle situation. Quite often players seem to fall to the ground too easily. Since a player on the floor has no rights to the ball, this allows the opposition time to regroup and steal the ball.

Make a target for supporters

Rucks are easier if the ball is moving forward. A player on their feet can move forward, giving a better target for supporting attackers.

It is helpful if the player also has a wider stance before the tackler hits them, anticipating taking the hit. A difficult rugby skill to get right straightaway, improvements can only happen through constant practice.

Keep the ball available

Quick ball comes from keeping it away from the opposition. Your players need to practise ball presentation and placement for when they go to ground.

Once the player has been tackled, they need to place the ball as far back from their body as possible. This helps in two ways:

  • The opposition are less likely to be able to retrieve the ball immediately or slow it down by getting their hands to it.
  • The ball is easier to clear over, leaving it for the scrum half to be able to pass away.

Ruck laws - keep the ball available

Click the link to order a copy of The Ruck and How to Win It manual.

Click the link to see rugby coaching tips for more effective rucking.

Rugby coaching tips


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