Former Lions coach Jim Telfer explains his four principles of rucking

How to rule at the ruck

Jim Telfer had an impressive playing and coaching career for both Scotland and the British & Irish Lions. Here he explains his  four principles of rucking…

Body position

“Of my four principles of rucking, body position is the most important. If you get the body height right, you can drive over. I always coached my forwards to go into contact or enter a ruck in the same position they’d be in as a front row of a scrum. In 1997 we had a net at a certain height and players had to run under it.”

Leg drive

“Leg drive is the next most important principle. If you watch a shot-putter, they are big men but move quickly. They do that by staying low and driving their legs.

“I coached the forwards to move quickly across 10m. I always encouraged players to have a wide stance when they ran. If the tackler can grab only one leg then you can keep moving forward. If they grab two, you will fall like a sack of cement.”

Support depth

“When I played for the 1966 Lions, I remember diving on a ball but New Zealand’s players got there before my team-mates. It was like being run over by cattle and left an indelible mark in my mind.

“You have to get to the ruck first. It’s never bad to be behind the ball-carrier. I would use ropes and such like to ensure that the support players entered behind the tackled player. That reduces the size of the gate the opposition can enter.”


“Entering a ruck, I want my players to be bound as tightly as they’d be in the second row at a scrum. Players tend not to bind in modern rucks but look at a counter-ruck. Players should be tightly bound and stay low to drive the opposition off the ball. That is where you see the best rucking.”

This article originally appeared in Rugby World’s August 2021 edition.

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