The Northampton Saints prop gives his top tips for competing at the breakdown 

How to counter-ruck – by Alex Waller

The breakdown is a huge part of the modern game and here Northampton Saints prop Alex Waller explains how to counter-ruck.

Check numbers

“I decide whether to counter-ruck based on the speed of the ball and the numbers in the ruck.

“If there is just one person in the ruck, maybe a back, then I’d fancy my chances. But I wouldn’t try against a well-resourced ruck with plenty of big players. You don’t want to waste your energy in that case.”

Create space

“Often when teams are preparing a box kick, you can hit the ruck to try to tie up some additional players. That will create more space for your backs to attack when they get the ball after the kick.

“You aren’t expecting to win the ball, but you can try to draw in more opponents with a well-timed counter-ruck.”

how to counter-ruck

Benetton look to counter-ruck against Dragons (Inpho)

Go low

“The best chance of stealing the ball is to get underneath the attacker in the ruck. If you can get underneath someone, you can put them off-balance.

“Legally entering the ruck is key. But you have to find a hole and get underneath someone. Working on your core strength and squats is key for moving big men.”

Right choice

“In training we work on decision-making rather than technique. During post-match analysis, our coaches will look at which rucks we hit and whether we made the right decision.

“It’s an individual decision about when to hit rucks and if you make the right choice, thumbs up. But if you make the wrong one it will be seen.”

This article originally appeared in Rugby World magazine’s October 2022 edition.

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