Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Support Skills: Rucking Part 1

I received this a while back from a friend who is currently in a player coach role:

I've been working with forwards on rucking. They are still having trouble getting their spacing and speed correct and recognizing where to go. Is there any particular drill(s) that you can think of off the top of your head
that you could send me to address this issue. I did do some of the drills we have discussed in the past. I know we discussed that rucking is more than one issue and rucking is not always the problem.

This seems like a great topic to dialogue about. Since it's the off season, let's go for it!

Personally, I see rucking as technique which is part of a the larger set of SUPPORT skills. We can't truly address the issue of rucking without the larger topic of support, and of course we need to distinguish between offense and defense.

Offensive Support consists of actions taken by a player or players to

  • maintain continuity of attack

  • preserve options

  • maintain go forward

  • maintain possession

  • minimize the impact of errors

So - when support fails, several things typically result starting with the most severe:

  • Penalty turnovers

  • Turnovers

  • Slow Ball

  • Sloppy Ball

  • Loss of continuity

So, as coaches, when we approach rucking, its important to put whatever games or drills we use in context and to ask a lot of questions:

What are we trying to accomplish by rucking? Do we just need good possession, or do we need quick ball? Do we want to attack off the base or are we moving the ball away?

Did the ball carrier get behind the defense? Is the tackler still on his feet? How many players are in support of him? Where are we on the field? How much time to do we have?

What is the defense doing? Attempting to poach? Stepping over the ball? Piling bodies in? Kicking at the ball? Are they contesting the ruck at all, or are they loading everyone up on the fringe?

Sounds like overkill? More penalties happen at the ruck than anywhere else. More turnovers occur there. The team that has the ability to attack effectively through multiple phases of play will always be more successful that the team with a well-rehearsed first phase only plan. In order to get those multi-phase tools to our teams, we must develop outstanding support skills. Those support skills should be learned and practiced by all players, regardless of the position they play.

As to the ruck itself, of late it seems there are a few primary techniques out there. Over the course of the next few days I'll try to get some video examples of each:

  • The link/leach/seal

  • The long body ruck

  • The traditional "driving over" ruck

  • Hybrid approaches

So - the floor is open for discussion. How do you coach the set of support skills we describe as "rucking?"