Tackling is one of the few skills you cannot play a game of rugby without. Not only is tackling essential for defense, learning to tackle properly is crucial for your own safety. Tackling is all about commitment -- as hesitation only makes you less effective and more likely to get hurt. Start slowly while working on good tackles in practice, and throw your full energy into every tackle to become an unstoppable defensive machine.
Everyone should read the World Rugby Laws of tackling. It is a fantastic step-by-step resource about what a tackle is and what you are allowed to do and not allowed to do.
What is a tackle? Only the ball carrier can be tackled by an opposing player. A tackle occurs when the ball carrier is held by one or more opponents and is brought to ground, i.e. has one or both knees on the ground, is sitting on the ground or is on top of another player who is on the ground. To maintain the continuity of the game, the ball carrier must release the ball immediately after the tackle, the tackler must release the ball carrier and both players must roll away from the ball. This allows other players to come in and contest for the ball, thereby starting a new phase of play.
What is NOT an acceptable tackle? World Rugby is pushing safe rugby and just about every year new laws come out to make the game safer. Take a look at the different types of illegal tackle that you must avoid:
High tackles: A high tackle is one where the defender contacts the attacker at a tackle height higher than shoulder level. This is often strictly sanctioned and can lead to a yellow card. Tip tackles: When the hips of an attacking player are raised above his head and he is brought to ground in this way, it is known as a tip tackle. The punishment for a tip tackle is usually a penalty, however, in instances where the tackled player lands on their head or shoulders, the referees have little mercy and will give out a yellow or even a red card. This kind of tackle can often lead to head injuries. No arms: Failing to use arms in the tackle is also known as a shoulder charge. The defender leads with their shoulder and the arms don’t form part of the collision. So, if a player leads with their right shoulder, wrapping the left arm does not suffice. You need to wrap the arm of the shoulder you lead with. Chop tackle: This is a variation of the no arms tackle. Defenders typically do this cynically, close to their own goal line. A chop tackle is one where the defender smashes into the attacker with low body position, which is good. However, the problem is when no arms are used. You could imagine that this could easily cause horrifying injury.
What happens once a player is legally tackled? There are specific rules that apply once the tackle has been made, and when a ruck is formed (where one or more players from each team who are on their feet close around it). This is covered in the 'ruck' section.