11 ways to improve your scrum-half’s pass

Former international 9 and now scrum-half coaching guru, Shaun Perry, tells us what he looks for when he’s helping players improve their passing.

Shaun Perry playing for Worcester

Feet first

A good pass starts with solid foundations and that means the feet have to be in the right position. Of course, it’s not always possible to do this in the context of the game, but there’s a standard position if the scrum-half is passing away from the base of a ruck or scrum.

The lead foot, that’s the foot that’s closest the destination of the pass should be pointing towards the target. Now, that’s not exact, but it has to be in that direction. If it’s not turned enough, then the passer is likely to be over-rotating their upper body which leads to a reduced chance of accuracy.

The passer needs to have a sense of passing down a channel, with everything moving towards that target.

From a coaching point of view, the emphasis on the feet takes into account the fact that many 9s I start coaching tend not to place their feet correctly if they have a chance. That’s why I spend time on developing this passing posture. It adds another tool to their toolbox.

As a 9, you are faced with many pictures when you approach the ball and consider which pass to use. Better footwork gives a better tool to use.

Training the feet

To coach this, I give the 9 different pictures. I bounce the ball off a trampet or have the 9 facing away from me, turning around as the ball is rolled or placed. Each time the 9 has to adapt accordingly. So, as they see the picture, they are adjusting their feet and hand position to give the best chance to pass accurately.

There always needs to be a target, either a static or moving receiver. Again, the 9 needs to see the picture and adapt their feet. If it’s just one player working with the coach, then we can use tackle tubes or the rugby posts as a target. I use different targets so the player isn’t always passing to the same spot.

Hand placement

After footwork, hand placement is the next key. The dominant hand is the back hand or the hand furthest from the target. On a “Gilbert” ball this hand would be on the G, I and L towards to the back end of the ball. Place the other hand lightly on the ball. It is used more as a guide than to impart power.

Rolls off little finger last

When the ball is passed, the hands follow through to the target. The back hand ends up with the palm facing the sky. The hand counterintuitively rolls under rather than over the ball. However, give the player the sense of the finish, and let them come up with the solution.

Ideally, when finishing the pass, the 9 doesn’t cross the wrists. Again, while it’s preferable, they don’t need straight arm finish. To help get the feel and the best finishes, I would do lots of one hand passing with the player.

Different passes from different hands

If you look at the best of the best, like Danny Care, they have lots of different passes. Often their right-hand pass will be different to their left-hand one. Therefore, coaching the pass is a lot about the outcome more than the process.

England’s Danny Care during training

You ask the players about how the pass felt when it goes well and not so well. You help them discover what adjustments to make. It takes a lot of repetition. However, that’s not lots of the same situations. It needs to be mixed up. I would set up lots of different scenarios in the training area, replicating possible situations to pass away from.

 The 11 ways to improve your scrum-half’s passing

  1. The core foot position
  2. Avoiding over-rotation
  3. Adapting the feet according to the situation
  4. Always have a passing target
  5. Keep changing the target in training
  6. Dominant hand placement
  7. Counterintuitive spinning
  8. Rolling the ball off the little finger
  9. The best finish position, though not always
  10. Different hands, different methods
  11. Mix up the scenarios
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