For many of rugby players out there, especially us smaller ones, we're all too familiar with the sight of a large, rampaging big man or woman lined up across from us about to get the ball. Our fight or flight instincts kick in, and in that moment of instinctual reaction we dictate the likelihood that the tackle does or does not get made.
The sight of a huge player coming at you with ball in hand can be frightening, but it can also be looked at as a great opportunity to tee off on a huge target and represent yourself with pride.
Here are some tips to help guide your actions next time you have to tackle a huge guy:
Step 1: Don't Be Scared
An old coach used to say, "The pain of putting your body on the line to stop your opponent will never last as long as the pain of looking back after a loss and knowing you didn't."
You simply cannot be scared of a big player that has the ball. You're not going to get hurt if you fully commit yourself and your body to the tackle. By hesitating, you're not only making it much easier for the runner to get past you, you're also putting yourself at a greater risk of getting injured. If you take the entire force of the contact, you'll be crumpled like a piece of paper and get your limps all twisted up.
Huge collisions can be daunting, but the reality is that they never hurt in the moment if you go full tilt. Giving it a half-measure is the worst and most dangerous thing you can do for yourself. Don't be scared, and back yourself!
Step 2: Close The Space
The worst thing you can do if you're trying to tackle a huge person is to let them get a head of steam. Big players generally have a harder time getting up to speed than smaller ones, so the best way to slow them down is to never let them get going in the first place.
While they are waiting for the ball to get to them through the air, this is the time to encroach on their space and give them no room to move. They can't run by you without the ball, so that will always be their main focus first. Come up off the line quickly, keep your feet moving underneath you, and eat up their space.
Step 3: Tackle Their Legs
It's not always easy to get low, but it is extremely important if you're planning on bringing down a big man or woman. Nobody can move without their legs, so this is where you need to aim when you tackle. Going up high on a large individual is a great way to catch a stiff arm or a shoulder and find yourself lying on the ground empty-handed.
All of the same tackling principles still apply when you go low. You still want to shoot your arms and run your feet, and you want to use your shoulders to make contact. Wrap and squeeze when you've made contact, and try and pinch their knees together.
Even though you will be going low, you still have to run your feet through the contact. You can't just drop straight down and expect to make the tackle. You have to have the momentum going forward into the ballcarrier. Otherwise you'll have no power in the hit.
Step 4: Don't Use Your Head
While chickening out of the hit can put you at risk, going in recklessly with your head across the body can as well. Avoid putting your head and neck in harms way by using the shoulder closest to the runner to bring them down. Catching a knee in the neck or jaw area will knock you out and often lead to a bad concussion.
Be smart and be safe when you tackle big guys, but don't be afraid. Remember, the bigger they come, the harder they fall!