Updated: Nov 3, 2020
What are these two passes and how are they used as part of a progressive passing plan?
These are my interpretations of these two similar stationary passing activities.
The “punch” pass is part of a breakdown of the developmental stage of a pass. Originally demonstrated by Mick Byrne, the highly respected former skills coach to the successful All Black sides of the early 2000’s, this pass was intended as a power developer. The player gains an kinaesthetic awareness on how their triceps and abdominal muscles fire as they push the ball from their hands and that relationship with their hips. The aim is to increase their power without swinging their hips. This gives them the ability to run straight and throw a longer, more powerful pass.
I have used the ‘rip’ pass over the last several years as an addition to the punch pass. This builds on the power development phase and is focused more on the release stage, covering flight and accuracy. While the punch pass restricts the player to passing from their hip in a pushing action, the rip pass is more about the flow of the pass and how it travels across, close to the body and to its designated target. The fingers play a bigger part here as the ball rolls over them to produce a natural spiral. Note: A common error in both methods is the player gripping the ball and trying to impart spin through their wrists which impacts on accuracy.
Both techniques are executed from a stationary position using only one hand. The rip pass can quickly transition into the moving environment with very little adjustment. In the punch pass the ball is positioned on the hip around the iliac crest and is then pushed or punched straight from here to the receiving player. In the rip pass the ball sits loosely at the hip and is fired straight to the receiver much in the way a gunfighter may draw and shoot. The punch and the rip are trained front-on before moving to the more rugby specific side-on position. In the front-facing position players can tend to fall forward and the punch pass highlights the need for more control over the abdominal, erector spinae and latissimus Dorsi muscles. In the side-on position the path of the ball is highlighted, particularly when emphasis is put on passing the ball hard. The ball should track close to the body and with good follow through the accuracy of the pass is increased. Note: A common error is the player using their hips to generate the power they need to get the ball quickly to the receiver. This can cause the ball to travel in an arc, away from their body, creating multiple release points along that arc that can lead to inaccuracy.
Throwing a harder pass is a test to a player’s stability. Promoting an awareness of staying slightly lower and over the ball will transfer nicely when movement is added to the progression. This adjustment to body shape can partially lock their hips which will help them run straight and also provide better vision to identify threats and opportunities.
Both methods are most effective when used together in a progression. Part of the progression is the moving environment. We often see players work primarily in the stationary environment at training or warm up and only touch briefly on the moving phase. Since the game is played in a moving environment this baffles me.
The beauty of a progressive system is the ability to go back a step or two to work on an error that may occur. This may be the stationery stage with a focus on power or the release. Knowledge and understanding of both these passes will help bring clarity to both players and coaches.