Brian Noble’s Rugby League Tutorial – The Basic Rules of Defending


The offside rule

As part of the third instalment of Toronto Wolfpack’s Last Tackle TV series, Director of Rugby Brian Noble MBE is once again a feature as the highly decorated player and coach takes viewers and fans who are new to the sport on a whistle stop tour of the various aspects of the game.

After previously covering the positions of the outside backs and forward pack, we now move onto some of the technical aspects of Rugby League, starting with one of the most important features, the offside rule.

In rugby league, the offside rule is different to that of any other contact sports, including American Football and even rugby union. In order to be declared onside whilst defending your try line, the entire team must retreat 10 metres back from where the tackled player plays the ball.

This is a crucial part of the game as the 10 metres allows the team in possession of the ball the space to try and advance up field through the use of hard runs or flowing passing moves. Once the tackled player has played the ball the defensive line can start to advance forward.

The exception to this 10 metre rule is the marker defence. Markers are a pair of defenders who can, once the tackle is completed, get to their feet and stand directly opposite the tackled player.

The marker aspect is an excellent way of varying the defenders on the pitch, as the two markers often communicate which way they will move in pursuit of affecting the next tackle. Being able to fool or beat the markers is an aspect that many teams try to perfect in attack and is a particular motive of the hooker, who often receives the ball from the tackled player after they have rolled it back with their foot.

The only time a team would not be expected to retreat the 10 metres is when they are situated directly on their own try line because there isn’t enough pitch left to move back any further and so there is a greater challenge presented to the attackers to score in vastly reduced space.

Tackle Technique

Taking advantage of the space on offer in rugby league is one of the primary reasons the sport is so fast paced and entertaining. However, the technicalities don’t stop there as Noble explains the importance of tackle technique.

From the video, you will see TWP forward Jack Bussey used as a ball carrier into a two-man tackle. You will notice there is a deliberate approach adopted by the duo defending; with emphasis on both stopping the player’s momentum by tackling low down but also, crucially, one tackling higher up, locking up the arm Bussey is carrying the ball in.

This is vital, as controlling where the ball is in tackles allows defenders to take control of the tackle and slow the play the ball down as much as possible. In the current game, being able to control the speed of the play the ball is paramount because effectively you can control the speed of the game by doing so. The most successful teams are most definitely the ones that dictate the pace of the game.

Next time you come along or tune in to watch the Wolfpack, have a look at the extent of the ‘wrestle’ adopted by your players in the tackles. Toronto have most certainly dominated their opponents in this department in the majority of their games so far in 2017.

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