I recently watched the latest series of School of Hard Knocks and there were a few things that stood out for me, mainly not remembering Chris Chudleigh being that evil when he taught my Level 1 coaching course. But chief amongst the stand-out moments was the defensive and tackling session ran by the Leeds Rhinos. The tackling technique seemed to consist of running full tilt at the bag, grappling it and performing a judo throw. Later during the final match of the series this technique resulted in a number of swinging arms or players being caught around the neck which appeared to go unsanctioned, although that could have been due to editing.
Now add into the mix recent professional games. There were a number of incidents, some of which resulted in cards, of players leading with their forearms or elbows instead of a hand off. When did it become acceptable to flagrantly break the law? Also during a recent Edinburgh match it appeared from the coverage that Ross Ford did not attempt a single strike to hook the ball at any scrum instead relying on an eight man shove. This resulted in slow or lost ball which does not help an already dire season for Edinburgh.
Why is such poor and often simply missing techniques being coached?
Take the tackle, these choke or ball & all tackles and the modern vogue of standing up in the challenge leading to missed, no arm all-shoulder, swinging arm, head clash tackles.
With recent concern over concussion and a spate of retirements through injury surely these techniques are just asking for trouble and increasing the chances of both. I have both seen and received injuries from tackles completed in a more traditional style, however these were normally due to poor technique e.g. head in wrong position or attempting a tap tackle and ending up with a boot to the face (that last one was me, and I did it twice!).
The tackle now seems to be more about securing the ball rather than stopping the player and many times neither occurs. Some of these ‘effective’ tackles lead to rucks, mauls, scrums or penalties which can make for a dull game. Heading back to the Rugby Championship and the fantastic South Africa versus All Blacks title decider, if you watch it again you see that the Kiwis ignore the ball and stop player with a more traditional tackling style. Scotland did this noticeably against South Africa in the summer too. Yes, it leads to more offloads and a more open game but would you rather watch a 27-38 try fest or a 9-9 “classic”?
As for the scrum, what do you call a front row player who is not a prop who does not or cannot hook the ball? Trying to win the ball at the scrum by simply pushing when playing against a proper hooker can mean they strike at a straight feed and win the ball as seen in the Cardiff versus Edinburgh game.
Time to head back to basics?