The Rugby Coaching Manual
Passing out of contact is one of the game’s most important skills that can so easily alter things very quickly, but it has to be introduced well before the season begins If an attacking team is simply going into contact time after time, the defence gets used to soaking up any impetus and the attack usually loses possession or patience or both. The pass just before or just from contact can be devastating as the tackler is out of the game and the next defender simply cannot get to the breach, especially if the receiver of the pass from contact runs a little J line, which takes him close to the original tackle.
However, the pass from contact’s effectiveness is virtually nullified if the support runners are too flat on the ball carrier. As soon as the ball carrier is held, the flat support runners automatically run past him, so the pass is not a serious option. The key is to maintain depth in support, but this is very difficult to define; it is a bit like trying to explain how long a piece of string is. Players will always ask what ‘deep enough’ means and you can best help them with two bits of advice as answers: if you think you are too deep, you are probably about right; and you should be able to read the number on the ball carrier’s back – and if he has not got a number, deep enough to read it if there were one there.
Once the pass from contact is an option, the pass must be soft. Too often the pass is fired at the receiver, thus making his mind up for him regarding where he can go. If the pass is soft and slightly lifted, the runner can decide which space he wants to hit and he, not the passer, should make that decision.
There are so many ways to practise passing out of contact and in the end it has to be done with a live tackle. You can run through with a group v1, v1, v1 and so on, but the ball carrier has to be comfortable with what he is doing as he takes the contact and you must stress that there is no need to rush the process. If the offload is not possible, the tackle should be taken and the ball placed on the ground for the support to deal with.
There can be a number of options in when the pass is given. (1) The pass can be given just before contact so that the tackler is committed and out of any immediate further play. (2) As the tackled player is falling behind the tackler and (3) When the tackled player actually hits the ground and passes from the ground. Whatever does happen, the pass is best given with both hands as it is very simple for the ball to be knocked out of a one-hand carry. Few players have hands that are large enough to control the ball with one hand.
A useful practice can be used to suggest to players that rarely are they too far from the ball for the offload option. Some think that they have to be directly and immediately behind the ball carrier, but this is not so. The time it takes for the tackled player to start falling or to hit the floor allows support to be effective from quite a distance away.
The coach must ‘referee’ the process, especially when players will instinctively want to go early to get the pass. The coaching message must be that there is usually more time available than you think and a late run can be a devastating one on the defence.
The Rugby Coaching Manual is now available for easy order from Amazon. This book will greatly help any rugby coach whether they are an old pro or overseeing their first training sessions. For more tips or information on the book, please visit The Rugby Coaching Manual official site. And check out a preview of the other chapters from the book on Rugby Rugby.
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