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Functional roles during contact situations - ruck and maul

The most dynamic area for functional role selection is during a breakdown situation. Often the ball is won or lost based on the correct role selection by the players involved, not necessarily on the skill proficiency of the players. The following table details examples of the roles, responsibilities and skills required during a ruck and during a maul. (Note – owing to the demands of the modern game, all players should possess these skills.)

RUCK

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. Players are rucking when they are in a ruck and using their feet to try to win or keep possession of the ball, without being guilty of foul play.

Functional role
Responsibility
Skills required
Ball carrier
  • Avoid contact if possible
  • If contact unavoidable, use footwork to avoid head on contact and maintain forward momentum
  • Look to offload during contact
  • If unable to offload, place ball on ground to be retained quickly by supporting players
  • Form narrow tackle gate
  • Evasion
  • Offloading
  • Ball presentation (on ground)
  • Communication
Support player(s)
  • If no threat to ball from opposition, pick up ball and play on
  • If threat exists from opposition, then clear tackler away from ball carrier
  • Scanning for threats
  • Decision making
  • Pick up/ passing
  • Ball clearing
  • Driving
  • Communication
Defending player(s)
  • Contest the ball in a legal manner
  • Drive attackers back over the ball
  • Back to feet after making tackle
  • Leg drive
  • Communication
MAUL

Law definition - A maul begins when a player carrying the ball is held by one or more opponents, and one or more of the ball carrier's team mates binds on the ball carrier. A maul therefore consists, when it begins, of at least three players, all on their feet; the ball carrier and one player from each team. All the players involved must be caught in or bound to the maul and must be on their feet and moving towards a goal line. Open play has ended.

Functional role
Responsibility
Skills required
Ball carrier
  • Avoid contact if possible
  • If contact unavoidable, use footwork to avoid head on contact and maintain forward momentum
  • Make ball available to support player(s)
  • Evasion
  • Ball presentation (to support)
  • Driving
  • Communication
Support player(s)
  • Secure possession
  • Maintain forward momentum
  • Transfer ball away from maul
  • Ripping
  • Driving past ball
  • Ball transfer
  • Communication
Defending player(s)
  • Contest the ball in a legal manner
  • Stop attackers' forward momentum
  • Drive attackers backwards
  • Stop maul legally
  • Ripping
  • Driving
  • Communication
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