A ruck occurs when a tackle is made and at least one team member from either side is present and touching over the ball. When explained in this fashion a ruck seems fairly simple but add more bodies, off sides lines and 5 seconds within which to use the ball, it becomes a lot more complicated and is no longer assumed if you go into the ruck with the ball, you will maintain possession.
As coaches, we strive to build not just the skills involved with maintaining or reversing possession but also the decision making around the roles of each individual involved or arriving at the ruck.
Rucking is a collision sport unto itself with not only the offense working to secure their possession, but the defense looking to unsettle the ruck and ultimately win back possession. In the past, the offense committed as many players needed to maintain possession and stability at the ruck. Conversely, the defense has tried to commit as few as possible so as to maintain their defensive line. More recently, we have seen the evolution of counter-rucking where the defense continues to apply pressure at the ruck in terms of one or two defensive players driving into the ruck with the hopes of driving off the offensive supporters and winning back the ball.
As it has always been important for support players to be following closely to their ball carrier, counter rucking and poaching (a defensive player reaching over a tackled ball carrier and retrieving the ball) have made it that much more imperative for support to be immediate and for the ball carrier to “keep their feet”. The required use of available ball within the 5 second window now speeds up the game by encouraging recycling of the ball quickly.