How To Catch A Rugby Ball & The Basics Of Taking A Pass

One of the fundamentals of rugby, wherever you're playing on the field, is catching the ball. If you're a front-rower you're catching and if you're a winger you're catching and this applies to all codes. 

This post is going to give you an outline on how to take the ball cleanly and set you up for an ideal transfer. 

Taking The Rugby Ball Cleanly

When you’re receiving a pass that’s not a spiral, the biggest thing that slows down the transfer of the ball to the next player is changing where you’re holding the ball. To practice this start by having a partner beside you that you can pass the ball back and forth with, without having to shift your hands from when you’ve caught the ball to passing.

Your hands and finger-tips should look like this when receiving the ball.

As a coach, I like to describe my hand placement as FAT on the ball. To promote bicep engagement pre-pass, triceps extension post pass and core and trunk rotation during the pass, the best way to achieve that are to be FAT on the ball with your hand placement. Finger tips spread but relaxed after a clean catch.

Ball sitting just above the hip joint, elbow in line with where you are wanting to pass the ball.

From here all you’re aiming to do is move the ball back to the other player and maintain the same hand position from receiving the ball to passing it back to the opposite player.

This type of drill will teach you how to move the ball quickly while maintaining your hand position and improve your catching position. 

Taking The Spiral Pass Cleanly

Catching a spiral pass differs from other types of passes because often you’re trying to transfer the ball to another player using a spiral pass or at least have the right-hand position so that you’re not fumbling with the ball while moving.

The goal of catching a spiral is to give you the ability to again transfer the ball without moving the hands around. To do this you need to receive the ball with your inside hand lower than your outside hand.

The picture below is an example of how your inside hand is dropped just slightly to get the ball in the right place when receiving a pass from your left. The same applies when receiving the pass from the right.

The dropping of this hand allows you to receive the ball in the optimal position so that you can then transfer the ball across the body in the right position without having to adjust your hands.

To practice this set yourself up 5 metres apart from a partner, keep your body upright and turn your body 35 degrees towards the passer and knees slightly bent.

With your inside hand now dropped you’re able to extend your arms so that when the ball comes towards the hands you’re able to rotate and move the ball onwards. 


Once you’ve caught the ball don’t pass it onwards but pass it back to the player opposite you and repeat ten times on either side. Your goal with this is to focus on just catching and receiving the ball.

Remember by catching the ball clean we buy ourselves time to execute quick tips/pop passes and fast transfer spirals. Everyone looks good passing with space and time but put a rush defence in front of players and that brings out the true player and skill set.

Work on your catching first, to perfect your passing second.

If you're looking at taking your passing and catching game to the next level take a look at our on-field passing and catching program used by All Black Aaron Smith.