Open field play

Rugby is an invasion and evasion game: once possession has been gained, the objective is to move the ball forward (by carrying or kicking) into opposition territory and ultimately score points.

The most effective way of moving the ball forward is for the ball carrier to avoid contact by running into space or passing to a team mate who is in space.

Contact is, however, inevitable at some point in open play. Using the correct techniques can help retain possession, continue the attack and minimise the chance of injury.


Key points for players

  • Look to evade the defender first - aim for the space around the defender, not the defender’s body

If contact is unavoidable:

  • Avoid head-on tackles by attacking the space and using evasive footwork
  • Keep the ball in both hands
  • Prepare for contact by adopting a strong and stable body position
  • Force the tackler to make a side-on tackle
  • Try to stay on your feet
  • Maintain your momentum using a strong leg drive
  • Try to pass out of the contact
During contact

If held by an opponent and brought to ground:

  • You have been tackled; see also the tackle section
  • Try to pass to support on landing
  • If unable to pass to support, present the ball
  • If support players are unable to pick and go / pick and pass, a ruck will form; see the ruck section

If brought to ground but not held by an opponent:

  • You have not been tackled; get back to your feet and continue with open play

If held by an opponent but not brought to ground:

  • You have not been tackled; maintain a strong body position and forward momentum through leg drive
  • Brace for the arrival of additional tacklers and/or opposing supporting players
  • Look for arriving support
  • Offload to a team-mate if possible
  • If a supporting team-mate binds on to you, a maul is formed; see also the maul section

Coaching tips

  • Ensure players are aware of and understand the principles of play
  • Ensure players understand the importance of evasion and attacking space rather than opting for contact
  • Construct sessions to encourage evasion rather than contact skills
  • Use key points to improve the players’ invasion and evasion skills in a safe manner
  • Avoid gender, size, age and experience mismatches when introducing and developing skills
  • Focus on one or two key points at a time - don’t try to coach too many key factors at once


Referee tips

Visit World Rugby’s Law Education web site.

  • Keep up with play
  • Protect the space for players to use
  • Keep a wide view of the field of play


Watch for:

  • Players who charge or obstruct opponents who are not near the ball (attackers and defenders)
  • Players who ‘clear out’ without legally joining the ruck/maul
  • Players who ‘tackle’ without attempting to use the arms


Check that:

  • Tackler contact remains below the shoulder level
  • Hand-offs are performed legally