4. Acceleration

Definition. The fourth stage of the tackle process is Acceleration. The ability of the tackler to generate force through their feet and into the ground, providing sustained pressure and the generation of controlled power.

Ongoing footwork throughout the tackle process is vital. With so much focus put on the connection and the initial hit, players often struggle to accelerate through and out of the tackle.

The Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) below cover the key factors that will enable and develop Acceleration skills. Coaches should consider them when developing Acceleration skills within their coaching programme.

1. Roll over the front foot.

Like a sprinter coming out of the blocks, the tackler must roll their weight over their front foot to get their centre of gravity in front of their feet and begin to push back on contact. The knee is often in front of the toe but as the hips pass over the foot the tackler begins to exert force backwards through the ground to drive forward. The act of the weight shift is referred to as “rolling over the front foot”. This is immediately followed up by a secondary step by the other foot and then on into leg drive.

2. Studs in the grass (generating controlled power and strong feet).

A tackler’s power is generated by pushing against the ground. When tacklers lose power, the tackle becomes predominantly an upper body movement with no leg drive. The tackler should endeavour to keep their studs in the ground throughout the tackle. This will allow them to accelerate and generate force through the ball-carrier and into and out of the tackle (no dragging toes).

3. Leg Drive.

Tacklers cannot simply keep their studs in the ground and pick their feet up and place them down. Footwork must generate powerful, controlled leg drive, using the large muscles of the lower body to create force and speed into and out of the tackle.

4. Control the ball-carrier.

Acceleration cannot be generated at the expense of body position, wrap, clamp, or grip. Acceleration enables the tackler to dominant the ball-carrier throughout the tackle process. This should allow them to finish the tackle effectively and react to the outcome.

5. Regain feet.

Be it because of failed initial contact, loss of body position or mistakenly assuming the ball-carrier will go down, tacklers often lose their feet within the tackle situation. The ability to return to action, scramble to get “studs in the ground”, body position and reapply force and speed to complete the tackle is a dynamic technique that all tacklers should practice.

6. Acceleration through torque (circular speed on roll finish).

When making a tackle that requires the tackler to roll as they complete the tackle, tacklers do not generate acceleration through leg drive and active feet but instead generate torque by rolling their body. In this circumstance, “Hips count as feet,” meaning tacklers should generate momentum using their hips to ensure they finish a full rotation allowing them to finish on top of the ball-carrier.

7. Never stop working.

The tackler must not give up on a tackle because they think they have lost contact or because they think they have the advantage. The tackler must always fight back into the tackle, working to reshape, regain feet and restart acceleration when needed. The tackler also continues the drive until they have control of the ball-carrier and they feel they have dominated the collision, keeping the power on until the tackle is completed.