Mastering the Perfect Rugby Hand Off: Techniques and Drills for a Winning Play
Mastering the Perfect Rugby Hand Off: Techniques and Drills for a Winning Play

Mastering the Perfect Rugby Hand Off: Techniques and Drills for a Winning Play


Rugby, a high-intensity sport that demands both skill and strength, is a thrilling spectacle for players and fans alike. One of the most critical aspects of the game is the Rugby Hand Off, a powerful maneuver that allows players to break through the opponent’s defensive line. Mastering the hand off requires a combination of technique, timing, and physicality. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the various techniques and drills to perfect your hand off, ensuring that you can execute it legally and effectively to gain a competitive edge. Whether you’re a seasoned rugby player or a novice, this article will equip you with the knowledge to become a formidable force on the field.

Understanding the Rugby Hand Off

The Rugby Hand Off, also known as the “hand off” or “fend,” is a tactic used by the ball carrier to evade a tackle or push past a defender. It involves using the palm or forearm of the hand to create space between the attacker and the defender. A well-executed hand off can give the ball carrier the advantage, leading to a breakaway and possibly a try-scoring opportunity. However, it’s essential to remember that the hand off should always be legal, adhering to the rules of the game.

Legal Aspects of the Hand Off

Rugby is a sport with strict rules to ensure safety and fair play. When performing a hand off, certain legal aspects must be observed:

  1. No Striking: The hand off should never involve striking or punching the defender. It is a technique to create space and should not be used as a means to physically harm the opponent.
  2. Above the Shoulder: The hand off should be aimed at the opponent’s upper chest or shoulder region. Striking above the shoulder is a dangerous play and can result in penalties or even disciplinary action.
  3. Open Hand: Always use an open hand when executing the hand off. This ensures that the move is not perceived as a punch or a slap, keeping it within the confines of legal play.
  4. No Grabbing: Do not grab the opponent’s jersey, arms, or any other body part during the hand off. Such actions are considered illegal and can lead to penalties.

Techniques for a Perfect Rugby Hand Off

Mastering the technique is crucial to make your hand off effective and legally compliant. Here are some key steps to execute the perfect hand off:

  1. Eyes on the Target: Maintain focus on the defender you intend to hand off. Keep your eyes on their upper chest or shoulder, as this will help you accurately position your hand.
  2. Body Positioning: Lower your body slightly, bend your knees, and maintain a strong stance. This will provide stability and leverage during the hand off.
  3. Timing is Everything: As the defender approaches, time your hand off perfectly. If done too early, the defender can read your intentions and adjust their position accordingly.
  4. Palm or Forearm Contact: Make contact with the opponent using your palm or forearm. The contact should be forceful enough to create space but not aggressive or violent.
  5. Follow Through: After making contact, follow through with your hand in the direction you want to move. This will help you break free from the defender’s grasp and gain momentum.

Drills to Enhance Hand Off Skills

To improve your hand off technique, regular practice is essential. Incorporate these drills into your training sessions to enhance your hand off skills:

1. Solo Hand Off Drill

This drill allows you to focus solely on perfecting your hand off technique without the pressure of a defender. Find an open space on the field and follow these steps:

  • Stand stationary with a rugby ball in hand.
  • Practice your hand off technique against an imaginary defender.
  • Focus on your body positioning, hand placement, and follow-through.
  • Repeat the motion several times, ensuring you are comfortable with the technique.

2. Partner Hand Off Drill

In this drill, you’ll work with a training partner, taking turns as the ball carrier and defender. This simulates a game situation and helps you develop timing and accuracy. Here’s how to do it:

  • Pair up with a teammate. One will be the ball carrier, and the other will be the defender.
  • The defender should take a position a few meters away from the ball carrier.
  • The ball carrier initiates the hand off, aiming to create space between them and the defender.
  • The defender must try to make a tackle, but not aggressively. Their goal is to practice defensive positioning while the ball carrier perfects the hand off.
  • Switch roles after a few repetitions to give both players a chance to practice.

3. Hand Off Circuit

This drill incorporates the hand off into a circuit, simulating real-game scenarios and improving your decision-making skills. Create a circuit with several stations and follow these steps:

  • Station 1: Solo Hand Off Drill – Practice the hand off technique against an imaginary defender.
  • Station 2: Tackle Bag Hand Off – Set up a tackle bag as the defender. Execute the hand off against the bag, focusing on technique and force.
  • Station 3: Partner Hand Off – Work with a teammate as described in the Partner Hand Off Drill.
  • Station 4: Dynamic Hand Off – In this station, add some movement to the drill. The ball carrier and defender should take a few steps forward as they execute the hand off.
  • Rotate through the stations, spending a few minutes at each one before moving to the next.

4. Hand Off Game Simulation

This drill involves full-game simulation, allowing you to practice the hand off in a realistic and dynamic environment. Set up a small scrimmage with your team, and follow these guidelines:

  • Divide the team into two groups, attackers and defenders.
  • Start with the attackers having possession of the ball and the defenders ready to make tackles.
  • As the attackers advance, encourage them to use the hand off to break through the defensive line.
  • The defenders should focus on their positioning and timing to challenge the hand off effectively.
  • Rotate the players between attackers and defenders to give everyone a chance to practice.

Tips for Mastering the Rugby Hand Off

Achieving proficiency in the rugby hand off requires dedication and consistent practice. To accelerate your progress, keep these valuable tips in mind:

  1. Build Strength: The hand off requires physical strength to push past the defender. Incorporate strength training exercises, such as weightlifting and bodyweight exercises, into your fitness routine.
  2. Improve Speed and Agility: Being quick on your feet and agile will complement your hand off skills. Participate in speed and agility drills regularly to enhance your overall performance.
  3. Study Professional Players: Watch and learn from professional rugby players who excel in hand offs. Analyze their techniques, body positioning, and timing to gain insights into their approach.
  4. Practice Both Sides: Develop your hand off technique on both your dominant and non-dominant sides. This will make you a more versatile player, able to handle different defensive situations.
  5. Focus on Footwork: Good footwork is vital in executing an effective hand off. Practice your footwork alongside your hand off drills to optimize your performance.
  6. Stay Composed: In the heat of the game, it’s easy to get flustered. Practice keeping a calm and composed demeanor to execute the hand off with precision and accuracy.
  7. Communicate with Teammates: Coordination with your teammates is essential for a successful hand off. Communicate your intentions clearly to ensure everyone is on the same page.


The Rugby Hand Off is a potent weapon that can turn the tide of a game in your favor. By understanding the legal aspects, mastering the technique, and practicing diligently, you can become a force to be reckoned with on the rugby field. Incorporate the drills and tips provided in this guide into your training regimen to enhance your hand off skills and become a dominant player. Remember, practice makes perfect, so keep refining your technique, and soon you’ll be hand off-ing your way to victory!