Stand and deliver: The step and pass from 9

The scrum half can pick up the ball from the base of a ruck or scrum and pass. Why do scrum halves use this type of pass and how do they execute it effectively?

At the elite level, we see plenty of 9s picking up and passing the ball rather than using the traditional sweep pass from the base of the ruck or scrum. There are good reasons for this:

  1. Avoid being disrupted by an aggressive ruck defence.
  2. Attract and challenge defenders close to the ruck before releasing to runners.

The sweep pass is still valid though, such as to clear quick ruck ball or to a kicker when you are trying to clear your lines.


  1. On approach, the inside foot should be moved quickly to the side of the ball. Lower the body height by bending through the knees to keep the backside down (not fold at the waist) to maximise the vision either side of the breakdown and to the target. At this point the feet should be shoulder width apart with the outside foot offset back in a split stance with toes pointing forward and on the balls of the feet to allow for greater stability. The weight is more on the inside leg.
  2. Hands should be placed either side of the ball with the inside hand cupped over the back two thirds and the outside hand on the front two thirds. As soon as hands are on the ball it should be pulled back strongly to the inside hip to avoid interference from opposing players.
  3. Initiate the passing movement by simultaneously driving off the inside leg and stepping directly back utilising the outside foot as a pivot to get clear of the tackle contest.
  4. In one movement, the inside shoulder rotates horizontally towards the target while the outside foot is driven in the direction of the receiver and stamped on the ground as weight is transferred rapidly from inside to outside leg.
  5. The upper body follows through with the weight distribution in a pendulum motion from ball pick up, on the inside hip, to ball release with the arms in slight flexion throughout.
  6. The passer flicks their front wrist/hand to initiate over spin and create additional power. The ball is released when both hands are pointing at the receiver in full extension – “point and shoot”.
  7. After the follow through and on ball release, the inside hip should snap to a stop. This dynamic weight transfer, hip snap and wrist extension is critical to maximising pass power.
  8. After the pass, the outside foot’s toes are on the ground and pointing in the direction of the receiver. The weight and chest are over the front foot allowing the passer to step forward for a quick transition to the next breakdown.
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