Passing is the most important fundamental skill in rugby. For the team to Go Forward, with Continuity and retain possession in order to ultimately score tries then all players need to be able to pass the ball accurately and effectively. Despite its importance within the game of rugby, the pass seems to be one of the simplest and one of the most boring but common skills there is. However it’s a skill that is often overlooked and taken for granted. Players think ‘how hard can it be?’ There’s a lot more to the skill of passing than meets the eye, and should be something that every player regularly practices and develops throughout the season.
Passing can be broken down into its components:
- Catching – To catch the ball cleanly means simply, having your hands extended out from your body, pointing towards the ball with your elbows slightly bent. A typical reminder is to have your thumb tips almost touching and point up while your fingers are pointed at the passer. Just as the ball is about to reach you, it’s important you absorb the pass by catching it first in your finger tips, and giving a little in the elbows. This is often referred to as ‘soft hands’. Having your hands pointing towards the passer gives them a nice target to pass to.
- Cross or Carry – Once you have caught the ball you must then transfer it across their body in order to get ready to pass. This is the cross or carry component. You should have your elbows slightly bent, the ball kept out from the body (never bring it in), and held at roughly chest height (never drop below the waist) IN BOTH HANDS.
- Zip or Snap – The snap or zip usually comes right at the end of the carry, involving the wrists, and upper arms, to provide added ‘zip’ and power to the pass. When spinning the pass (to the left) your left hand should be below and to the front of the ball in order to provide support and guide the ball, and the right hand should be at the top and to back of the ball in order to spin and transfer power to the ball and the right elbow bent and away from the body. When you are holding the ball for a spin pass your thumbs should only be visible as your fingers are wrapped around it.Once the ball passes the middle of your body.. stomach… you must speed up your ands through and towards the ball receiver or target. It is at this point that the right/back hand quickly rotates over the ball and towards your left and the right arm extends towards the target.
- Following Through – Following through is very important in determining both the accuracy and the amount of power generated in the pass. In order to deliver an accurate pass, the arms and hands should always finish pointing directly at the receiver. If the arms swing around the body instead of moving in a straight line across the body, then it’s very likely that the pass will travel behind the receiver. If the hands were to move in an upwards, which usually happens when the ball is delivered from below the waist, then the pass is likely to travel too high.
- Body Positioning – When doing a spin or push pass pass, the player should always try and adopt a strong and athletic body position – the common ‘power position’. leaning slightly forward will help you maintain good balance to carry out an accurate pass and also prepare the player to go into a tackle should the option of the pass be no longer available. It’s also important to try and ensure your shoulders are square to the opposition, so the defender is ‘fixed’ before you make the pass. This gives your receiver a quick moment to make a move or continue passing before the defender can react.
Below are an assortment of videos on passing. I encourage you to watch them multiple times and really practice what you are seeing.
Again for passing the most important things to remember are;
1. Pick Your Target – look at who you are passing to. The no look pass is for well skilled and experienced players and teams. To start we always want to have eye contact with the receiver
2. Shoot from the Hip – Load your elbow behind the ball and push the pass forward towards your target from the hip, try not to take a back swing. Rotation of the ball comes only when spin passing.
3. Follow Through – the player should finish with his/her hand pointing at the target and the shoulders fully rotated.
Here is a video on the simple push pass.
Here is a video on the spin or spiral pass.
This following video is around basic rugby passing techniques and breaking the pass down into its component parts. Please watch and give it a try with a friend, parent or teammate.
Because you have taken the time and focus to get to this point in the passing discussion, enjoy this video of the Top 5 Ridiculous Passes of all Time!