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(Dartmouth Men’s Rugby Coach)
The Basics: Catch & Pass - (Part I – Instruction)
Accurate passing and catching are core skills in rugby. It’s almost taken for granted that everyone is 100% proficient but think of the number of times in a game you lose possession from a poorly thrown ball or dropped catch.
Without a successfully completed pass you lose momentum, most likely lose possession and have to quickly switch from offence with the potential of scoring points, to energy sapping defence and going behind on the scoreboard.
So why does this happen?
While hand to eye co-ordination is required across all ball games there is a great difference between the techniques required to pass a rugby ball and that required to throw a baseball pitch or throw an American Football. Practising proper technique is essential for consistent and accurate passing and catching.
Lack of confidence under pressure
It’s always difficult to replicate game conditions in training but the more a player handles the ball the more familiar they will become with its behaviour. A relaxed and confident player will find it easier to pass or catch. Players should get as many quality reps practicing these skills at training.
Weather is always a factor, it even affects the pros. After the USA v Scotland game in a very hot Houston, the Scottish team cited the humidity, which made for a slippery ball in sweaty players’ hands, as a reason for missed catches. Practising with a wet or muddy ball helps prepare for every eventuality in an attempt to replicate game conditions.
Players trying to be too clever
They’ve seen the latest slice of skill from the pros and think they can replicate it – sound familiar? However if they haven’t put the work into improving the basics of the game their skill level isn’t high enough to deliver the pass accurately. Being a good passer of the ball may not be a much-highlighted skill but if there is one weak link in the chain you can’t hope to develop plays in attack.
Rugby really is a simple game but you need good fundamental skills to give you strong foundations from which to build winning strategies. Professional players started their careers by learning the hand and body position for the pass. It was only when they mastered these skills that they moved on to more complicated manoeuvres.
In rugby training, the team goes through drills for strategy in the game scenarios, such as, the set piece and backline strike moves. Time with players is limited but you might have 15 set piece plays in a game but maybe 100 passes so it’s worth revisiting and honing these skills too.