Knowing when to perform a move – such as the side-step – is equally as important as knowing how to perform it. Players need to learn to anticipate moves in rugby as a vital part of the game. Coaches – practicing as many drills with players as possible will aid in their ability to anticipate the moves of their opponent.


The side-step is used to avoid an oncoming tackler without the tackler noticing which direction the ball-carrier intends to avoid him with.

Scenario: The ball-carrier is moving in one direction and the defender follows this direction in order to make a tackle.

Side-step: The ball-carrier quickly moves either left or right of the tackler before the tackler manages to grab hold of the ball-carrier. The tackler is either left on the ground behind the ball carrier or misses the ball carrier completely. The ball-carrier has to convince the defender that they are moving in one direction but is actually going in another – basically, the ball-carrier has to fool the defender. To side-step to your right, drop the weight of your left shoulder and leg, driving the left leg into the ground and then push away on the right.

To learn how to successfully perform the side-step, watch your favourite rugby players and notice their common tactics when performing this move. You will see that they have these aspects in common:
• Before their first movement, their head is above their feet; in other words, they are upright.

• Their movements have slowed down slightly.

• They are looking for the space they want to move into.

• They are able to move quickly in the next direction; their footwork keeps them balanced and keeps their momentum going.

Remember to teach your players about their “circle of balance” – if they step out of this circle laterally, they will lose control. Some player’s circles are larger than others, but a small movement at pace can confuse a defender. The ball-carrier should aim to change their momentum at the last minute, in order to leave the defender “flat-footed”. It is a good idea to break this move down to its most basic form when coaching, so players can understand it and execute it successfully. For younger players, set up a drill of beacons which they must complete while avoiding contact with the beacons. Encourage them to move in small steps and run on their toes when they are close to the beacons.