The newly retired England back-row on mastering the ankle grab

How to tackle low – by Mark Wilson

Newcastle Falcons and England back-rower Mark Wilson was known for his physicality in defence.

He retired in February but still has plenty of knowledge to pass on, so here he gives his top tips on how to tackle low, which is becoming ever more important in the game.

Make the right choice

“Choosing when to tackle low depends on where you are on the field. If you are in the wider channels in a one-on-one, you want to tackle low and have someone there to help out and finish off the tackle.

“With a big ball-carrier, you need to go low to take their legs away and stop them at source.”

Bring intensity

“The key is being intense; you need to want to go and hit them. Then make sure your feet stay in the ground. Of course, you will need to come off your feet at some point, but you want to have that foundation.

“If you are going to hit with your left shoulder, get your left foot in as close to the attacker as possible, then your back foot chasing up to hit through the tackle and not going off feet too early.”

Focus on the basics

“Tackling low comes more naturally to some than others. But it’s just a case of doing the practice, getting your head on the correct side, hitting with your shoulder and having the intent.

“We do a load of basic defensive skills in our training; I think people would be surprised at that.”

Practise technique

“In training, we do drills where we start on our knees and the focus is on driving your arms through the contact and getting the rhythm of hitting with your shoulder. We work on footwork as well.

“Someone can hold a bag and it’s not a case of putting in a big hit, it’s just the muscle memory of same foot and same shoulder.”

This article originally appeared in the April 2022 edition of Rugby World.

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