The scrum half is a key position in Rugby Union (R.U.) and Rugby League. In most games, the scrum half will handle the ball more than any other player, and will largely control the flow of the game. Passing is central to a scrum half's game, and training will focus on the correct technique for making long, accurate passes. The scrum half, like the other half and full backs, may also be required to make a succession of short sprints and to execute tackles. Training focuses on this part of the game as well.
Role of the Scrum Half
In R.U., the scrum half influences the timing and flow of his team's offensive play because he is the primary channel of communication between the forwards and the other half backs and full backs. In set pieces like the scrum and the line-out, it is almost always the scrum half who receives the ball won by the forwards and either runs with it, kicks it, or–more frequently–passes it to half backs and full backs standing by to attack.
At the Scrum and Lineout
In R.U., the scrum is formed when the opposing packs of forwards bind together in close formation. The scrum half of the team in possession feeds the ball between the feet of the two front rows. When the ball emerges from the scrum, the scrum half gathers and passes it, picks it up and runs with it, or kicks it upfield for better position. In Rugby League the scrum half has the same role but scrums are a less important part of the game. When the ball goes out of play in R.U., a lineout is formed consisting of two parallel rows of opposing forwards. A player from the team in possession throws the ball centrally between the two opposing rows, who leap in the air competing to pull the ball down in the direction of their scrum half. It is the scrum half's task to gather the ball and, as with the scrum, release it with a fast, long pass to his half or full backs, or make an attacking play with it himself. In Rugby League, lineouts are replaced by scrums.
Training for the Scrum and Lineout
The long, accurate passes a scrum half is expected to make throughout the game, and especially when his forwards win the ball in scrums and lineouts, require correct stance, smooth body movement and strength. The scrum half trains by standing in a crouching position, holding the ball with both hands, and swinging it smoothly from side to side with a pendulum motion. Bringing a rotation of the hips into play, practice involves making repeated, long, smooth passes to teammates. Training in speed passing involves the scrum half receiving balls thrown quickly by a teammate and pivoting to pass them as quickly as possible to another teammate standing nearby. Speed is measured by a stop watch and accuracy by how many passes the supporting teammate can receive without needing to reach for the ball.
Other Aspects of Offensive Play
A scrum half is expected to be as talented as the other half and full backs in running with the ball, evading tackles, and making passes and kicks while in motion. There is nothing specialized about the training for this role. With other members of the team, the scrum half will participate in practice plays where the ball is passed back and forth along a line of running players as often as possible without being grounded. Coaches will recommend various other passing drills, including those which increase mobility by requiring players to change direction or zig-zag while continuing to make and receive passes.
Strength and Fitness
Players in all positions are expected to make tackles when necessary, and even half and full backs are occasionally involved in rucks and mauls where strength is required to win the ball. Training for all half and full backs should develop the ability to make a series of short, explosive sprints, recovering quickly between each of them. This ensures the stamina to keep up with play. For scrum halves, an all-round weight training program is recommended to build strength.
- "The Ultimate Guide to Weight Training for Rugby"; Robert G. Price; 2007
- "Complete Conditioning for Rugby"; Dan Luger and Paul Pook; 2004
- Photo Credit rugby image by Sergey Galushko from Fotolia.com rugby image by Alison Bowden from Fotolia.com