World Rugby have ramped up the punishment for high tackles, that is tackles above the line of the shoulder. It’s expected that there will be a spate of red and yellow cards in the next few weeks, making it even more important for players to have the right technique when tackling.
When people think about aiming in rugby, they tend to think about kicking, and maybe passing, but often forget that aiming is also a crucial part of tackling. One of the reasons for high tackles is that the tackler has not aimed at the target area sufficiently accurately. The target area is usually the thigh, although some might aim for the chest in order to dislodge the ball. But human beings naturally look at another’s face, so the tackler often doesn’t get in position early enough, and may just instinctively stick an arm out, catching the ball carrier in the head. Whilst averting the eyes to the target, it’s essential to keep the head up. Another mistake made by tacklers is that they drop their head so they’re looking at the ground, misjudge the movements of the ball carrier and end up with concussion themselves due to a knee to the head. As the tackler enters the tackle, they should focus past the ball carrier, and this can help to keep their head up. As with all aiming, the more accurately you aim the nearer to your target you’re likely to be. At international level, at least, the shorts tend to have an emblem on them which would be at about the right height for the tackler to aim with their shoulder. Otherwise it could be the pockets. Video is always helpful, so the coach can ensure that tacklers are keeping their heads up, making small steps and continuing to drive through the tackle. The key is to make sure that youngsters have the correct, safe technique from the start, minimising the risks to themselves and to others.