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Tips for Clearing the Ruck in Rugby

In rugby, there’s no better example of the right to contest possession of the ball than the ruck. In essence, every time the ball carrier gets taken to the ground, a ruck ensues and both sides have a chance to either steal or retain possession of the ball. Being able to quickly establish, then maintain, control over the ruck is the key to a rucking victory. And control of the ruck comes from successfully clearing (or driving) opposing players away. This guide identifies several facets of a solid ruck-clearing ability.

Keys to a Successful Ruck Clear

A ruck is cleared after one side successfully drives the other away from the ball. The act of clearing the ruck is a group effort that often begins with a combination of well-timed individual efforts. Below are some of the fundamental technique points for individual players involved in clearing a ruck:

  • Focus on one player: Commonly, few different opposing players are involved in the ruck. Pick one player to clear out; don’t try to clear out every opposing player in the area. That’s what your teammates are for.
  • Approach the ruck head-on: The amount of force you generate with your approach run and eventual hit is best utilized in a head-on manner. It will be easier to clear an opposing player from the front, rather than from the side. Also, approaching from the side runs the risk of incurring a penalty for not entering the ruck properly.
  • Get low: In most contact situations, the laws of physics will determine the winner. A low center of gravity makes it easier to drive an opposing player away. A good rule of thumb is to be lower than the player you intend to clear.
  • Aim for the chest: Along with getting low, you should target the chest or upper mid-section of the player you intend to clear. This will automatically help you make a good low-to-high hit, and the added upward momentum will help to knock the opposing player off-balance.
  • Keep the feet chopping: Your initial instinct upon first hitting your target will be to stop moving and assess the situation. Train yourself to ignore this instinct; actually clearing that player out won’t happen if you hit him and stand still. Concentrate on moving your feet throughout the hit and drive.
  • Run through the ruck: Making a tackle doesn’t end with the initial hit — it ends when the ball carrier either releases the ball or goes to the ground. A ruck clear doesn’t occur until you’ve completely removed your target from the established ruck area. Keep driving until you’re at least a few meters away from the ruck.
Mental Edge

The laws of the game stipulate that all players in the ruck must be bound on to a teammate. If you enter a ruck to clear out a player, and you end up stuck in the ruck, quickly bind onto your closest teammate. Otherwise, you run the risk of getting called for a penalty.

Another option for clearing out opposing players is to bind on to a teammate prior to entering the ruck. The added strength and mass that this provides will definitely make it easier to clear out an opposing player. However, there is a risk involved in this scenario:

  • For example, say a ruck forms and there are four players near it, two from team A and two from team B. Team A has the ball going into the ruck.
  • One player from team B immediately enters the ruck, and both players from team A bind together and clear him out.
  • However, if both players from team A are committed to clearing out that first player from team B, then it creates an opportunity for the other player from team B to make a play on the ball without any resistance.

In the situation outlined above, it would be better for only one player for team A to commit to clearing out team B’s closest player, so the other player from team A could stay at the ruck and protect the ball.

Ruck with the Best

As with most contact-heavy abilities, it’s much easier to read about a skill than it is to actually perform it. Focus on practicing individual parts of the ruck clear first, then work on sequencing them together. The more attention you pay to the individual parts of the ruck clear, the easier it will be to perform it in its entirety.

The ruck is one of rugby's most frequent battles, and clearing out opposing players is the key to victory. Learn more about some important ruck-clearing techniques.
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