Tackle, ruck and maul
As well as being an evasion game which requires creation and use of space, rugby is also a contact sport. In fact, contact situations can be the very mechanism by which players create the space they need to attack. The three most common contact situations which occur in open play are tackle, ruck and maul.
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.
A ruck is formed if the ball is on the ground and one or more players from each team who are on their feet close around it.
Players must not handle the ball in the ruck, and must use their feet to move the ball or drive over it so that it emerges at the team’s hindmost foot, at which point it can be picked up.
A maul occurs when the ball carrier is held by one or more opponents and one or more of the ball carrier’s team-mates holds on (binds) as well (a maul therefore needs a minimum of three players).
The ball must be off the ground.
The team in possession of the ball can attempt to gain territory by driving their opponents back towards the opponents’ goal line.
The ball can then be passed backwards between players in the maul and eventually passed to a player who is not in the maul, or a player can leave the maul carrying the ball and run with it.