The ruck

A ruck typically evolves from a tackle situation and can develop into an effective method of retaining or contesting possession. A ruck can commit defenders, therefore creating an opportunity to create space. On formation of the ruck, offside lines are created.

Law definition
A ruck is a phase of play where one or more players from each team, who are on their feet, in physical contact, close around the ball on the ground. Open play has ended.

Key points for players

  • After the tackle, the ball carrier should present the ball quickly, with both hands, as far away from the opposition as possible

  • Arriving players should adopt a strong, stable body position, with head and shoulders above hips at all times, ‘eyes up’ and make contact by binding on a player using the whole arm as they join the ruck

  • Join the ruck from behind the foot of the hindmost team-mate in the ruck; this represents the offside line

  • Support players must bind onto team mates and drive over and, if appropriate, past the ball. When the ball leaves the ruck, the nearest support player should play the ball

  • Players who leave the ruck must immediately retire behind their offside line
  • All players at a ruck must remain on the their feet and support their own body weight

Player safety research for the ruck tells us that:

  • ‘Eyes up’ to keep head and neck in a good position
  • Keep head and shoulders above hips at all times
  • Make contact by binding on a player using the whole arm
  • ‘Squeeze ball’ is a potentially dangerous technique. It is not permitted below U19 level and should be discouraged in adults

Coaching tips

  • Use conditioned games to develop support players’ decision-making skills
  • Practise and re-practise all contact skills
  • Use opposition progressively: e.g., touch, ruck touch, defenders with bags, full contact
  • Ensure all players maintain a strong body shape throughout the contact and emphasise the need to stay on their feet and be able to support their body weight at all times
  • Ensure all players are aware of the Laws governing the ruck, especially those relating to safety
  • Coaches should not coach and/or encourage ‘squeeze ball’ due to the risk of injury. At levels below U19, it is also an illegal act

Referee tips

Check that:

  • Players joining the ruck do so from behind the feet of the hindmost player and by binding onto a teammate
  • Players are on their feet when joining the ruck and remain on their feet until the ruck has ended
  • Players keep their shoulders above their hips

Watch for:

  • Players intentionally falling to the ground over the ball
  • Rucking of the player rather than the ball
  • Players who intentionally jump on top of a ruck
  • Players attempting to gain possession using their hands
  • Players charging into rucks without binding
  • Players clearing out opponents who are not part of the ruck
  • Players who are not participating in the ruck breaking their offside line
  • Players lifting opponents out of the ruck