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Here’s a quick guide to improving your players skills in these key areas.

Technique of Passing & Catching

  • Hold ball in front of body in two hands with fingers spread on either side.
  • To pass left– right hand for power (towards back of the ball) and left for aim (towards front of the ball). Keep power arm high (elbow up) for accuracy and distance.
  • Fluid motion to release the ball with arms swinging like a pendulum in front of the body, first away from then towards the intended target. Follow through with the hands pointing towards the receiver at point of release.
  • For a spin pass one hand passes over the ball as it is released, causing the ball to spin in the air, which increases distance and speed. For a pass to the left, your right hand runs up and along the ball, as if pulling a gun from a holster.
  • Types of pass include spin (most common), pop (short and quick), flick (using the wrists), offload (improvised in the tackle), reverse or blind (passed to space for player behind carrier).
  • Players should nearly always look to carry the ball in two hands, ready to pass to supporting players either side of him.
  • Receivers should always have their hands up which is the target for the passer.
  • Catch the ball with your hands up and keep the ball in front of you in two hands. The ball can act like a wand and move would-be-defenders out of the ball carrier’s path, by dummying and pump faking. Try it in your next passing drill!

Carrier – Passing the Ball Checklist

  • Look at your receiver – don’t just pass blindly and hope.
  • Aim the pass – ideally in front of the receiver’s chest.
  • Time the pass – speed up or slow down your pass to try to create time and space for your team mate.
  • Draw the defender in – run towards the opposing player’s shoulder, making him turn his hips towards you and pass the ball before contact.

Receiver – Catching the Ball Checklist

  • Make sure you are in a good position – in space a few paces behind the ball carrier.
  • Let the ball carrier know you are an option – communicate.
  • Give them a target – get your hands up and into position.
  • React to the decision of the ball carrier.
  • Keep your eye on the ball until you have possession – reach, catch, control.
  • Decide if you can take the catch – is it worth risking a knock on?
  • Decide on next option – pass immediately, dummy, run or kick

Encourage every player to improve their ball handling skills with regular practice so that your team can see the dividends. It’s a skill that becomes instinctive with time and repetition. As the pros often say “Don’t practice until you get it right, practice until you can’t get it wrong.”

Learn from the Pros

Rugby World Gillette Passing Masterclass:  Jonny Wilkinson explaining the basics of passing.

Rugby Passing Technique: CAA Coach Matt Sherman takes you through drills to develop good technique.

Sevens Uncovered: Training for the Perfect Pass for tips from the top names on the IRB Sevens circuit.

(Print out Part I and Part II for future reference.)