Ben Pegna, a freelance technical adviser, explains a step-by-step route to breakdown nirvana

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Quick ball in contact is intrinsic to achieving the fluid rugby to which good teams aspire. “The FLAP method not only encourages efficient ball retention but is easy for players to recall,” says Ben Pegna, who has worked with Wasps’ academy and England Sevens. “It helps them to repeat good habits under pressure.”

1. AVOID T-BONING

“The first rule of contact is to totally avoid it. The worst type of contact is called T-boning, when a player runs straight into an opponent. This reduces your chance of generating quick ball. So coach players to avoid contact and then, if contact occurs, to avoid T-boning.”

Contact

Front on: Players should avoid running straight into contact. Photo: Getty Images

2. FLAP PRINCIPLES

“The ball-carrier should drive his shoulders through the contact, with hips facing forward. You want to recycle the ball within three seconds and at all levels I use the mnemonic ‘FLAP’ to help players understand their role and be dominant in the contact area.”

3. F IS FOR FOOTWORK

“Ideally, a carrier sidesteps the defender and breaks the line. Next best is partial evasion so he only gets an arm on you, not a shoulder. Finally, unbalancing him, so that he turns his hips or sits back on his heels, will still help you win the collision and generate quick ball.”

4. L IS FOR LEG DRIVE

“If you’re not able to power through a wrong-footed tackler, assert yourself by driving forward with vigorous pumping of the legs. Keep the shoulders and hips square – any turn sideways will decrease your power and give the tackler easier access to the ball.”

George Merrick

Forward march: Harlequins George Merrick shows good leg drive. Photo: Getty Images

5. A IS FOR AGGRESSIVE RIP

“If the defender makes the tackle, the carrier must present the ball on his terms. ‘Rip’ ball away from tackler, with shoulder nearest the tackler aggressively dropping, chest facing down, ball below upper torso. Keep between the ball and tackler to stop them accessing it.”

6. P IS FOR PLACEMENT

“Once face down, the carrier must place the ball as far back as possible. It’s a secondary movement, so if you land facing one touchline you make a big effort to twist and present away from the defence. A long placement with body parallel to the touchline is ideal.”

Placement

Full stretch: The ball is placed back in a ruck during a Super Rugby game. Photo: Getty Images

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WHAT YOU COULD DO

  • Integrate the FLAP principles into every training session, even if just for five minutes.
  • Play a touch-based game where once the ball-carrier is touched you go live at the breakdown. Or keep it non-contact but award extra points when you see a FLAP aspect executed well.
  • Footwork: work in pairs in a 3m box. The defender loosely holds the shorts of the attacker, who aims to step and get into the space directly behind him – think of a C-shaped run. Start at 50%, then lift the intensity.
  • Placement: work in pairs with four different-coloured cones. The carrier lies with a tackler on top applying pressure, and wriggles and fights to present the ball to cone called by the coach.

This article first appeared in the June 2017 issue of Rugby World magazine.