Measuring tackle and ruck technique in rugby union

Doctoral Thesis


Permanent link to this Item
Journal Title
Link to Journal
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Background: Developing tackle and ruck technique is important to improve performance in matches and reduce the risk of injury. Little is known regarding valid tools to assess tackle and ruck technique in rugby union. The aims of this thesis were (1) to assess the validity and representativeness of the contact assessment tool, and (2) to identify factors which may affect the degree to which contact technique developed in training transfers to matches. Methods: Tackle, ball-carry and ruck technique of players competing at different levels of play were assessed in a two-on-two training drill using standardised technical criteria. Technique scores between levels of play were compared to assess the validity of the contact assessment tool, and contact technique scores assessed in training and matches were compared to assess the representativeness of the tool. Physical qualities and questionnaire data on the importance of technique to improve performance and reduce injuries were compared to contact technique scores assessed in training, to determine the effect of physical conditioning and player's knowledge on contact technique proficiency. Finally, tackle and ruck technique scores assessed in training and matches were compared to measures of match performance and contact related injuries. Results: Senior players scored significantly higher in the tackle, ball-carrier and ruck assessment than academy 1st and 2nd level players, demonstrating the good construct validity of the assessment tool. Contact technique scores were associated with performance outcomes in training and in matches, although technique scores in matches were lower than technique scores in training. There were no significant relationships between player's knowledge of the importance of contact technique and their contact technique proficiency. There were moderate to large associations between various physical qualities and tackle, ball-carry and ruck technique scores assessed in training. Players with better contact technique in matches performed better in matches, however, there were no meaningful correlations between contact technique in training and match performance or match related contact injuries. Conclusions: These findings demonstrate the validity of a tool to assess contact technique in rugby union with good representative learning design, however progressing the drill into less structured environments is recommended to further improve the representativeness of the assessment environment. Furthermore, the findings highlight the importance of contact skill training and physical conditioning to ensure skills developed in training are transferred to match performance.