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Wednesday Dec 23, 2015

Rugby Tactics: Using the Grubber Kick to beat defences

Rugby Tactics: Using the Grubber Kick to beat defences

This week our Rugby Tactics feature looks at the resurgence of the Grubber kick in the modern game. It’s a tactic that seems to have fallen by the wayside in recent times as teams look to keep the ball in hand and work through the phases when in the oppositions red zone.

Positivity is to be encouraged but the best teams take their chances when they arise and in the video we see both Ma’a Nonu and Quade Cooper put it to good use to do just that.

Recently Saracens have also been using it as a weapon to turn rushing defences that are trying to shut down their expansive game, allowing their wingers and fullbacks the chance to outpace the turning defenders in the corner.

Two things that are really worth paying attention to in the video are how the Saracens players communicate when the kick is on, with Chris Ashton very obvious in signaling to Owen Farrell where he wants the ball, and Farrell’s excellent kicking technique when threading the ball through.

The end-over-end technique he uses keeps the ball’s path true and makes it travel in a straighter line than if kicked on the side. Additionally, topping the kick makes the ball pop up perfectly for Ashton as he crosses the line.

The kick is almost inch perfect. It’s clearly something they work on collectively in training, and something teams of any level can look to work into their attacking game plan by spending 5 minutes at the end of a session, with players practicing the kicking technique and the re-gather and then finishing of the kick to score.

Again we stress like previous tactics, it’s all about approaching it with a positive mindset. Overused it becomes predictable but used at the right time it’s devastating, with defences having pushed up hard struggling to turn and beat attackers with a head start back.

As always please feel free to leave feedback and comments in the section below. Let us know what you think of the videos and if there is anything you are keen for us to look at in more detail.

About The Deadballarea

An Englishman living in France, Graeme Forbes runs Rugby Analysis website,

An IRB qualified coach, in his spare time he helps coach a junior men’s team in Paris. You can catch him on twitter lazily re-tweeting other peoples comments and the Green and Gold Rugby website where he contributes Super 15 and Wallabies based analysis articles.


  • larry
    3:46 PM 26/12/2015

    Defenses need to be made aware of the possibility of the grubber or pop kick, then they back off some, and space or gaps open up for running. Something has to be done to break up the monotony of multiple phase play. And now there's the possibility of once again changing the offside line to something like a meter behind a ruck? That's just going to encourage more phase play, not open play. Might as well change the whole game to league and just abolish union because it seems that's the intention of those in charge of the game!

  • facepalm
    11:40 AM 24/12/2015

    Also good to note that a grubber kick can't be marked, making it even more of a nuisance for defences.

  • larry
    2:16 AM 24/12/2015

    I'm reminded of the BBC commemorative film on Cliff Morgan, in which Tony O' Reilly mentions that when the Lions played the Springboks in that 1955 tour, Cliff would tell the backs to "put the ball over their heads" as the South African backline advanced forward in their so-called "blitz" defense. With so many defenders lining up across the field it only makes sense to re-establish the grubber and pop kicks as an offensive weapon to break up these defensive lines. I want to see more of them. Unfortunately it does take some training and repetitive practice to perfect either type of kick, and as play in the last few decades usually involves the ball in hand so often, perhaps kicking the ball into limited space with the intention of retaining possession has been so ignored and forgotten as a tactic, and perhaps not practiced enough in training, that when it is used, it fails, the opposition gets the turnover, and the next time it's back to the usual running into opposition to set up phase play. I'd really like to hear a comment from someone who was an authority in using the pop kick and grubber to perfection: Barry John.


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