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Passing is a core skill in rugby for all players but for a scrum half it is also their key positional skill. A look at the stats for most passes made in the opening rounds of the 2015 Six Nations put Ireland’s Conor Murray out front with 176 passes, in just two games.
Watch Conor Murray in Six Nations action
An effective No 9 needs to get quick ball to his Backs if his team is to build momentum so to perform successfully as a fulcrum for distribution it is vital the scrum half has good technique when it comes to passing. While they also need to be able to read the game, have a good boot for kicking, and display strong communication and leadership when directing the Forwards, without a good pass in his tool box a scrum half isn’t going to have an impact on the game.
This quick instructional video from Super Rugby side The Stormers is a great way to explain the technique to players. It highlights each element of the process which creates the typical ‘sling shot’ motion of the No 9 picking up the ball from the ground and firing out to the Backs.
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Before contact with the ball the scrum half should have scanned the pitch and know exactly where he wants the ball to go to. If they wait until they are over the ball then they will have less time to react and make the pass.
Position over the ball
Dropping down to retrieve the ball, the scrum half should be in a low powerful position over the ball, with hands evenly placed on the ball to secure it and make the pass.
Not only is this important for stability but also for power and accuracy of the throw. The back foot should be close to the ball, with the front foot pointed in the direction you want the ball to go. This creates the maximum swing for the ball from the ground into flight which gives you maximum power and speed in the throw.
As with all passing and indeed the hooker’s lineout throw the players arms should follow through and end up pointing at the target. This ensures the ball is released at the optimum point on the motion to give it accuracy. The body also follows the direction of the ball helping to give the ball its power.
This is all done in a split second and the technique, like other rugby skills, can be built up over time with practice. The one element which cannot be accounted for in practice is the pressure of match conditions. Trying to replicate the atmosphere of a game in training situations is a constant issue for coaches and for a No 9 a training field pass is very different from a pressurised match pass. A good grounding in the correct technique will give the player confidence at crucial moments, and repeated practice also makes the mechanics instinctive which allows the player those few extra milliseconds to prepare mentally for the challenge of passing under pressure.
Scrum halves thrive on their ability to outwit and out play their opponent. A consistent, accurate, and well targeted pass is a key weapon in achieving that goal.