Catching a high ball:
In rugby union catching the high ball is a skill every player should learn despite their position although backs are likely to catch a high ball more often than forwards. Catching a high ball is usually the best option if surrounded by the opposition to ensure that you get to the ball first. I will now talk through the perfect technique for catching a high ball.
The first thing you should do is look to see what is going on around you before committing yourself to the catch. When you decide to go for the catch ensure that you let everyone around you that this kick is your catch. This will avoid confusion and stop more than one player going for the same ball. When everyone is aware that you are to be the person going for the ball, you should quite obviously get in line with the ball’s path. Always keep your eyes on the ball at all times (this is often difficult when there are opposition players around you vying for the same ball).
When you have read the ball’s path and are now in a position to attempt to catch it start to extend your arms towards the direction of the ball (point at the ball). You should bend your elbows slightly and put them in and upwards. Remember to keep your eyes on the ball. Now position yourself side on to your opponent with a wide stance. The reason for this is to protect the ball and protect yourself if your opponent tackles you after taking the catch.
You may or not decide to catch the ball in mid air. In this case remain side on and raise one knee towards your waist to protect yourself. Bear in mind that it is illegal to be tackled in the air.
You should catch the ball at or above eye level before bringing the ball into your hands and then your body (start catch with fingertips and then cradle the ball into your arms and body).
Now turn your back to your opponent to protect the ball and prepare your body for contact, as you are most likely to be tackled by an opponent who is vying to get the ball back. It is wise to have fingers spread after the ball is caught for quick transfer.
If within your 22-metre line when catching the high ball it is important to call the ‘mark’ by shouting out “MARK”. The referee will give a free kick in the spot that the player catches the ball if caught cleanly. Calling a mark is a great way of relieving the pressure in defence when the opposition are on the attack inside the 22-metre line. When a mark has been called only the player who has called it can take the kick, the player then has a chance to clear their lines and relieve the pressure on his team. (Bear in mind that a mark cannot be called directly from kick off).
Taking a conversion:
In rugby union an important skill is that of taking a conversion. Conversion kicks can win or lose a team a game so it is vital for the kicking player to have the right technique in order to do the best for his team. So if you are the team kicker, it is important you make the big kicks when they matter, especially in pressure situations. A successful conversion kick gives the scoring team a total of two points and one is taken every time after a try is scored. I will now talk you through the perfect technique for taking a conversion kick.
The first thing to do is ensure that you are using a kicking tee or stand to build a mound for the ball to lie upon. If this is not unavailable the next best thing is to build a divot in the ground with the heel of your boot in order to place the ball in. The ball should be placed in the divot or on the stand tilted so it is facing straight towards its intended direction. The seams on the ball should be lined up direct with the target ensuring that the seam is lined up going straight through the posts. The ball should be leaned forwards slightly so that the so-called ‘sweet spot’ is exposed (if a stand is used the ball will be tilted into the right position anyway). The ‘sweet spot’ is found around about one third up from the bottom of the ball and it is the place where if kicked will gain the most distance.
Next is to pace your run-up but before doing so stand over the ball in the kicking position to make sure it is lined up correctly and that the ball is in the right place and position to strike. When pacing your run-up firstly take about three or four steps backwards in line with the ball. Here you can check your set-up to ensure that the ball is ready to be kicked with the seams of the ball going directly through the posts. Then, for a left footed kicker take two or three steps to the right and for a right footed kicker two or three steps to the left. Now the ball is ready to be kicked. You should now relax and focus upon your desired target always thinking positively and visualizing the ball going exactly where you want it.
On making your run-up there should be around a 45-degree angle between you and the ball. Your non-kicking shoulder should be turned side on to the target and you continuously focus on the spot on the ball you are aiming to strike. Your supporting foot should be placed as near to the ball as possible to provide maximum stability and your body weight should be kept forward and over the ball. The hip now rotates bringing the kicking leg forward with the upper leg leading. Your leg should then straighten with the toes pointed. You should make contact with the ‘sweet spot’ of the ball using the instep of your foot.
You should ensure that you follow through with your toes pointed in the direction of the ball and your leg brought up high.
These are the guidelines you should follow when taking a conversion kick.
Performing the sidestep:
In rugby union all backs need to be able to shake off potential tacklers with a bit of quick footwork. This can be done effectively through the sidestep, which is a quick and effective way of evading your opponent and penetrating their defence. These are the guidelines you should follow when performing the sidestep in a rugby union game.
First of all you must have the ball in your possession in order to be able to perform this specific skill. As you approach your potential tackler with the ball you much first of all decide in your head which direction you are aiming to run past them. As you approach them further you should shorten your stride in order to get your timing and balance right.
The next step is to step wide with your outside leg placing your body weight on that leg. This fools your marker into thinking that you are headed in this direction. You might decide to slow down slightly in order to lull the defender but in your mind you are waiting for him to shift sideways and this is when you make your move.
When this has happened and the defender has moved in this position quickly shift your body to the other side of your body exploding off your standing foot in an instant. You should continue pushing off on your outside leg pumping your raised inside leg for extra power and to keep maximum balance.
Your defender will now be off balance so take advantage of this and accelerate past them.
These are the guidelines you should follow when performing the sidestep to evade your opponent.