It only seems right that this week we talk about the ‘Big Hit’. Based on past Lions tours it’s safe to say it’s inevitable that we will witness some of the toughest, most brutal, bone shattering, tackles that rugby has to offer.
When timed to perfection, the big hit has the ability to lift a team in terms of spirit, confidence and enthusiasm. You can turn defence into attack should the collision be so colossal that it forces a spilled ball.
Big blockbusting hits can be a real crowd pleaser too. One spectacular coming together can have the entire crowd on their feet. When a game turns flat and players begin to go through the motions, all it takes is one huge, aggressive shot to send shivers down the spine and turn the momentum of the game.
Although you may not see any points on the scoreboard a big tackle can certainly be as good and as beneficial as a try.
This year’s tour provides all the ingredients needed to ensure we are thoroughly entertained with some of the biggest, most epic collisions on the planet – 15 v 15 monstrous humans, raw passion and aggression, pure rivalry and a genuine fear of losing each on-pitch battle or confrontation, is a cocktail that will serve up a storm.
Whether it’s the Lions Vs the mighty All Blacks or the Lions taking on a ‘lesser’ Maori side...one thing is for sure; No man will back down. And each will throw their bodies into every possible collision in search of victory.
However, I’m sure Brian O’ Driscoll would be one of the first to make the point that no player’s dream should be ended by any ill-timed, poorly performed tackle, as it unfortunately did for him, just 41 seconds into the Lions Test Vs New Zealand in 2005!
So what are the main skills and coaching points needed to perform the individual ‘Big Hit’ tackle?
1- First and foremost is mindset. You must adopt a positive mental attitude when it comes to tackling and be confident. Place emphasis on the ‘pleasure’ that can be obtained from executing a full-blooded tackle rather than fearing any injuries.
2 – Your tackling philosophy should be attacking through defence. The aim of the tackle should be not merely to stop your opponent’s progress, but to go forward and attempt to gain possession by forcing the ball carrier into handling errors or winning turnover ball through dominant collisions.
3 – As the tackler you should move quickly into position, keeping your eyes on the target (waist), your hips square and hands up in front of your body in an inviting manor.
4 – As the target becomes near, shorten your steps and get your feet close in to the attacker to create a strong base. Plant your lead foot, get low but keep your head up and eyes on the target, chin off the chest.
5 – Leading with the same shoulder as your lead foot, drive powerfully into the target area whilst keeping your head close to the side of the ball carrier. The arms should encircle the ball carrier below the centre of gravity and grip tightly.
6 – Drive powerfully with the legs.
7 – Pull and lift with the arms and shoulders and drive your opponent upwards and backwards, finishing on top of the ball carrier and putting yourself or team mates in a position to win turnover ball.
Hopefully we see a couple of these in the upcoming Lions fixtures!