What are the rules of tackling in rugby?

What are the rules of tackling in rugby

In rugby, tackles are used to stop the opposing team from advancing towards your goal line and scoring. The rules for tackling are quite simple, and after you’ve gotten used to them, you’ll be able to make tackles like the pros.

Must attempt to wrap his arms

If a player has the ball, you must try to wrap your arms around them. This is particularly important if they have their arms free and are in a position to pass or carry the ball forwards.

If you don’t wrap your arms around them and bring them down, you will be penalized for tackling without wrapping or “making a proper attempt”, as this can result in serious injury for both players involved in the tackle.

Must not bring the player to the ground dangerously

In addition to the previously mentioned rules, a tackler must not make contact with the player’s head or neck. This is especially important as rugby players don’t wear helmets and often get tackled in the air.

The tackler should also be careful not to grab the ball carrier’s clothing during a tackle. While it might seem like an easy way to prevent them from getting away, grabbing at their clothes can cause serious injury if they fall badly on it and end up with something like a broken collarbone or dislocated shoulder (both of which happened in my last game).

Cannot continue to tackle after contact has been made

When a tackle is completed, the tackler must immediately release the tackled player. The tackler must not attempt to continue to tackle. The tackler must get up and play the ball.

If a player does not get up and play the ball after making contact with his opponent, he will be penalized for “knocking on”.

The tackler may only make contact with an opponent below their shoulders if:

  • the tackling player is using both hands when making contact with an opponent’s upper body; or
  • the tackled player has lifted one of his feet off the ground (has no part of his body in contact with any other part of his body).

Cannot tackle above the shoulder line.

When tackling someone, the tackler must not tackle above the shoulder line or above the waist. This means that they cannot grab a player by their upper body with their arms or hands.

If a defender tackles a ball carrier in mid-air and causes them to land on their head, it is considered dangerous play and could see that player punished for an infringement.

Tacklers are also forbidden from tackling players with possession of the ball (unless they are within five meters).

Can you tackle above the waist in rugby?

The tackle is a technique used in rugby union and rugby league football, in which one player tackles another player who is in possession of the ball.

No, you can not tackle above the waist in rugby because any tackle above the waist would now be considered a high tackle. 

Can you tackle around the neck?

In rugby, there are no rules against tackling around the neck. In fact, you can tackle around the neck in rugby league, union, and Sevens.

The difference is that in rugby union and sevens, you are not allowed to tackle a player higher than their shoulders i.e – in the air or on their way up for a high ball or kick-off.

Can you tackle from the front in rugby?

No, you cannot tackle from the front in rugby. In fact, there are only two ways to tackle it: from the side or from behind. It is illegal to tackle an opponent from the front or back. It’s also illegal for a player with the ball to attempt a charge down by attempting to block their opponent’s kick at goal (known as a ‘spear tackle’)

Can you tackle a player in touch rugby?

You can tackle a player in touch rugby.

The referee will let you know when the ball is out of touch and you can then tackle the player with no penalty. When you are allowed to tackle them depends on where they are on the field, as there is a line that runs across each side of the field and if your opponent crosses this line then it is considered “in touch” and therefore off-limits for tackling until they come back onto their side of said line.

Importance of tackling

The team benefits from a player who can tackle well. A good tackler can make or break the game by stopping the other team from scoring and getting their own team points on the scoreboard.

Your individual performance also improves when you have good tackling skills, so this skill will help you to keep your place in the team, not just now but for many years to come!

Head positioning

To ensure the player’s head remains in a good position, it is essential that the tackler keeps their eyes on their target and keep their head up as they make contact.

This will allow them to see what is going on around them, and identify where the ball carrier may be and which direction he’s running in.

The tackler should also avoid looking at the ground or concentrating too much on his feet when making a tackle. This can result in poor technique which may lead to an illegal or dangerous tackle being made by accident.

Body positioning

Body positioning is important for your own safety, as well as the safety of other players. You should always ensure that you are in a good position to avoid injury and keep your balance.

  • Avoid being offside and penalized
  • Keep your weight on one foot, not both
  • Keep arms by your sides

Arm placement

Arm placement is very important. You need to avoid injury, penalties, yellow cards, red cards, and penalty tries. The best way to do this is to make sure your arms are always in the right place—not too high and not too low.

If you are tackling someone with your hands up around their waist or under their armpits (as shown above), then you will be safe from any of these punishments. But if your hands go either higher or lower than that area, then things can get ugly fast!

Leg placement

Leg placement is a vital part of making a good tackle. The more you can get your legs right, the better. There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing someone use their arms and hands to stop the ball carrier, when they could have just put their legs down!

To get into a good leg position, you need to step with one foot onto the field at an angle that’s almost parallel with them (like 45 degrees). Then keep your other foot flat on the ground and push into it so that it bends like an “L” shape. Place both hands in front of your face for protection, then look up and make sure that there aren’t any teammates running into them!

Holding the ball law

  • You can hold the ball for only 3 seconds
  • If you hold it for longer than 3 seconds, you get penalized.

Ball on the ground law

The ball on the ground law is a law of rugby union, that deals with the circumstances in which a player can pick up and kick or run with the ball. It states that, for a player to pick up or run with the ball, it must first be on the ground.

The law does not apply if:

  • the ball is being thrown in by a team member; or
  • the ball is kicked into touch.


It can be tricky to make sure you’re aware of all the rules around tackling in rugby, but it’s definitely worth it. If you have any questions about what we covered here or anything else related to the sport, please let us know so that we can help. Good luck out there!

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