Can You Tackle From Behind In Rugby? (With Pictures)

When your opponent is racing toward your try line with the ball, can you tackle from behind in rugby? You certainly can, as long as you are not offside.

You can tackle from behind in rugby when you are in an onside position. The tackle must be legal, with both arms wrapped and below the neck or head area. The most common tackling position is at waist-height, although targeting both player and ball is also effective.

When the ball carrier is already past you, then you must try to bring them to the ground as quickly as you can. There are several ways to tackle your opponent from behind. We’ll cover each method, and go in-depth into the most common and effective tackling techniques.

When Can You Tackle From Behind In Rugby?

I’ve mentioned onside and offsite, so let’s take a look at a specific example.

The blue scrumhalf in this picture is bending down to pick up the ball. He doesn’t intend to pass it. Instead, he’s going to make a break and try to run through the gap between the yellow players to his right.

I’ve highlighted two yellow players. One is onside, and he is entitled to make the tackle.

But look at the yellow player on one knee behind the blue ruck. Can he jump to his feet and tackle the scrum half from behind? No, he cannot tackle from behind in this position because he is offside. He would give away a penalty.

Ways To Tackle From Behind In Rugby

There are several ways to tackle from behind in rugby.

Waist High

The most common and reliable way is a tackle at waist height where the tackler wraps his arms around the upper thighs. I’ll go into technique in the next section.

But these schoolboys show what I’m talking about: a classic flying tackle from behind.


“Man-and-ball” is another way to tackle from behind. The defender stays upright and tries to wrap arms around both the player and the ball. The goal is to prevent players from passing as they’re tackled.

The big danger with this kind of tackle is that the defender’s arms hit the neck or head of the ball carrier. This will be a penalty against the defender. The tackler may even grab below the shoulders (as we show above), but if their arms slip up they are likely to be penalized.

Here’s the problem we’re talking about. The defender has wrapped one arm around the torso of the ball carrier, but his other arm ends up around the neck.

This is a penalty offense. And if the referee judges it to be the use of force against the neck or head, it could be a yellow or red card.

Shirt pull

Players who don’t think they’ll get their arms around the ball carrier may try to grab them by the jersey instead. There is nothing illegal with grabbing shirts in rugby, although its less common than it used to be (the linked article explains why).

However, this is usually an ineffective way of tackling. At best, you may manage to show the carrier down enough to effect a proper tackle to bring the player down.

Tap tackle

You’re racing behind the ball carrier and are about to launch forward for a waist-high tackle. But the ball carrier is the fastest player on the field, and you realize that he or she is about to pull away from you.

You have one final resort before you give up. You can go for an ankle tap in Rugby Union (it’s not allowed in Rugby League). Check out the linked article for tips.

How To Tackle From Behind In Rugby (Waist-High)

Good technique brings the ball carrier down in a way that is safe for both of you. The most important part of this technique is to protect your head.


You need to keep your eyes on the target as you continue your run.

Focus on the back of the ball-carriers upper thighs, and get as close to your opponent as you can.

Shoulder to thigh

When you launch yourself forward, your aim is to hit the ball carrier’s thigh with one shoulder.

Keep your head to the side of their leg. This is the key to protect your head.

The importance of the wrap

You must always wrap your arms around the ball carrier when you are making a tackle. Otherwise, you are committing a foul. As you’re unlikely to make much impact on your opponent, the referee may not notice. But that’s the least of your problems.

When you’re tackling from behind, failure to wrap will most likely mean that the ball carrier happily continues their run toward your try line while you flail ineffectively on the ground!

How to wrap

The goal when tackling from behind is to wrap your arms around the waist or upper thighs. Your arms will naturally slip downward with your momentum. A firm grasp will ensure that the ball carrier cannot continue their own momentum and you will bring them to the ground.

Be sure to hang on! Even the best tacklers can be made to look silly when the ball carrier skips happily out of the tackle and continues their run.

The finish

Your tackle should finish with both of you on the ground. You should land on top of your opponent – this will minimize any discomfort (to you).

But your job isn’t finished. Stay in position for a brief second to ensure that the tackle is completed i.e. your opponent can’t jump to his feet and start running again (this would be an infringement).

Your next focus is to get to your feet and assist your  qteammates in competing for the ball.

What’s The Worst That Can Happen When You Tackle From Behind?

Beginners probably get most worried by taking a boot to the face when they try to tackle from behind.

As long as you position your head correctly, this will not happen. It’s important to drill the techniques a lot when you’re starting out.