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360 Rugby’s Top 5 Tips for Jackling

Updated: Aug 11, 2022


The Jackal


Here at 360 Rugby, we like to open up discussions about player technique and skill sets across all sports, but this week we are focussing on The Jackal in Rugby: 360 Rugby’s Top 5 Tips to improve your game.


Much has been said about the Jackal in recent years and for good reason, as this one specific skill has made a huge difference in the game of Rugby. The Jackal has been responsible for an increase in head and neck injuries because of the daredevil position players get themselves into whilst they perform a jackal. However, it is also responsible for some of the most exciting Rugby; when players can steal the ball in tight situations and attack a broken field from turnover ball, or secure a penalty in the dying minutes of a match. It is a tight balancing act for any player wishing to make jackal as well as for world Rugby; How do we move forward in regards to the rules surrounding this ever evolving part of the game?


I realise that there must be some people reading this who have no idea what a Jackal is other than a scavenging member of the canine family, right?


Well, let me explain a little…


Within Rugby, the jackal or jackler is the name given to a player who steals the ball at a tackle (sometimes called poaching). This very specific skill has become somewhat of an art form in recent years with many players like Sam Warburton, Tom Curry, and Sam Underhill making a name for themselves as great stealers of the ball. This ability to jackal and steal the ball frequently is, as you would expect, very beneficial for a team and as such, this skill set has become very valuable as it offers opportunities to attack quickly when the opposing team is switching from attack to defence. At this point in the game, teams are often very vulnerable as there can be a breakdown in communication and organisation. Making a steal can also be a great opportunity for the defending team to relieve pressure, slow the game down and kick for touch from the resulting penalty.


As you can see there are plenty of reasons to coach players to Jackal. So… how do I become better at Jackling you may ask yourself? In this blog I am going to go through some of the basics and give you my top 5 tips that may help. I will also outline a couple of theories behind the skills mentioned.


First off, it’s important to remind ourselves that the Jackal technique is very closely related to our good old friend the Ruck. In fact, you will often find yourself in a ruck if a Jackal attempt doesn’t go to plan. With this in mind, I would say that honing your ruck technique and strength in this area is a must! Make sure that basic skills for a ruck (tower of power, low body height, leg drive) are all fully developed, and you are confident in ruck situations before moving on to trying to Jackal or steal the ball.


The Jackal - key coaching points.


1.) Win the battle for shoulder height on approach.

This is very similar to our approach for a ruck. However, it is even more important when trying to Jackal as being able to get underneath your opponents will allow you to ride out any challenges for the space and be in a strong position to rip the ball. As you approach a tackle situation keep a close eye on the approaching opposition player and aim to drop your body height to get lower than them. It’s imperative to remember that you must be able to hold your own body weight and position as you cannot use your hands to support yourself.


2.) Wide foot placement.

Getting your feet wide apart gives you a solid base and more importantly, brings your chest lower to the tackled player and the ball. Wider foot positioning will also aid you in supporting your body weight and get you lower when battling for shoulder height. So… add a few more stretches to your warmup and channel your inner gymnast and aim for the splits! Painful just to think about, I know but, being able to get a wider foot position will make a huge difference!


3.) Chest to the ball, strong grip.

Having a strong grip might sound obvious and it probably is, but the reasons for having a strong grip are two fold. Firstly, remember the player who just got tackled? Well, they aren’t going to let the ball go easily so you are going to have rip the ball hard with your hands and forearms! (On a side note, I find that doing a couple of grip strength drills each week really pays off in this area of the game – keep your eyes out for an upcoming blog on this!). Secondly, if you cannot get a clean rip of the ball and the tackled player is holding firm, you are going to have to show the referee that you were the first one there and in the best position to take the ball.


TIP: This can often be achieved by pulling the ball up to your chest. This also shows the referee that you trying to rip the ball and the tackled player is holding on and the referee should award you a penalty.


4.) Race to where the tree is going to fall (where the player will land after the tackle)

This is less of a doing-skill and more about your understanding and anticipation of the tackle. Unfortunately, there is no “follow these simple steps” when comes to anticipation, feel and game sense. This one requires repetitions of rucking and jackaling drills combined with match or game situation practice. Try to get as much training and game time in as possible – we can help you with this during our Saturday morning sessions at Eastbourne Rugby Club, if your free! (Check out our sessions here)


5.) Make small adjustments in the feet, legs, shoulders and back

Minor adjustments will help to shrug of challenges whilst jackaling. For example; a simple change of foot position from having your feet in line to having your right foot further forward will allow you to absorb a challenge from the right hand side far better than if you kept your feet in a straight line. Again, the knowledge of these adjustments can only come through practice and skill repetitions. So, get out there and some extra practice in your next training session!


There you go, my 5 top tips for you to try in your next training session.


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If your attempt to steal the ball doesn’t go to plan...


It is worth bearing the following points in mind during the game because there are some important elements that come out of the jackal if your attempt to steal the ball doesn’t go exactly as you envisioned. You need to be ready to ask yourself in the heat of the moment, “Have I won the battle and got the ball on to my chest ready to jackal?” If not, you need to take the space in front or remove an opposing player.


Now, there is plenty to think about here too.


If you haven’t won the ball and there isn’t an opportunity for a clean rip of the ball, for example, the ball has been rolled back a long way, then I would suggest maintaining a strong low position and taking the space in front of the ball and awaiting a teammate to lift the ball away or preparing for the oncoming player and competing in the ruck.


If however, you arrive a fraction too late to the Jackal party, then you are going to need to power up the bulldozer and remove the opposing player who is currently owning the space over the ball. Doing so will create confusion and the possibility of a steal for a teammate of yours, or at the very least, slow down the speed of ball and give your teammates more time to organise in defence. (Keep your eyes out for this blog coming soon!)


Personally, I love trying to jackal and steal the opposition’s ball. I think it is a great part of the game that requires skill, power, and knowledge.


Being able to Jackal is not just for players with low numbers on the back of their shirt; but for everyone. It adds an extra string to your bow as defender, giving you more chance of being the first name on the team sheet each week and isn’t that what this is all about?


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If you’d like to come to a 360 Rugby training session and practice your Jackling, then simply book a weekly session of your choice, and use the code “TRY360” for a FREE taster. We would love to see you there.



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