Sunday, 6 November 2011

how to play at hooker

Having a good hooker is a great asset to a team, he basically controls the set pieces (scrums and line outs).
The hooker throws in the ball at the line outs and hooks the ball at the scrum- hits the ball back to his side with his foot.

hooking at the scrum:

so first i'm going to be focusing on hooking the ball in the scrum, as a hooker you don't bother with driving at the start, your only concern is hooking the ball- that is untill you either either win or lose the ball and then you should join in with the push
In general hooking should be a very quick and precise strike, its very much to do with timing you should practice to strike where the ball will land, so as the ball lands your already striking it.
Your scrum: you have the advantage on your scrum because you can communicate with your scrumhalf when the balls being put in, how you do this is up to you and your scrumhalf working it out before hand but generally the scrumhalf taps you on the hand or shoulder with the ball to tell you he's about to put it in.
In your scrum the ball is going to be put in from the left, if your right footed the best thing to do is using your right foot swing it round so you strike it into the channel between you and your loose head, so outside your left leg. If you can, try and pivot your foot so you strike the ball with the inside of your foot directing it the back of the scrum. As you can see, you have to be reasonably flexible to do this.
If your left footed its fairly simple you just strike it into the same channel but with your left foot, so no need for any twisting.
Oppositions scrum: it can be very hard to win the ball on the oppositions ball because not only does the oppositions hooker know when the balls coming in but often there scrumhalf feeds the ball, so the ball goes further towards them rather than you (note that this is illegal but still very popular).
So basically you just do the same method to strike the ball as you would when its your ball, But there is an alternative to this if its not working out which is instead of trying to hook the ball to your side simply kick the ball, this can achieve 1 of 3 things:
first; is that you can simply make there hookers job a lot easier, this is obviously the bad option.
secondly; it can make the ball go through the scrum and come out of the scrum surprising there scrumhalf and putting him under pressure, the flankers should be all over the scrumhalf, this is a good outcome.
Finally; it can rebound off one of the oppositions front rows legs making the ball come your way and you could potentially then win the ball, hopefully now you can see that kicking the ball isn't always a bad option!

Throwing in at the line outs:

Grip: first i'm going to start with your grip on the ball, grips will varies slightly from hooker to hooker its just what suits you best.
But typically (if your right handed) hookers holds the ball with there right hand at the back, the one that gets the spiral, and hold the front of the ball with your left hand, the one that stabilizes it.
The hold is similar to the way you would hold it when passing the ball but the opposite way round, you can simply hold the ball in front of you with your hands on it as if you were making a pass and then swap them round, this is your grip.
Placement of your feet and posture: once again the placement of your feet will vary from hooker to hooker, you could take a take step forward, you could have your legs square to each other, you could have one leg further back than the other.
You should try different feet placement to see what suits you best.
For posture, its important to keep your hips square to the line out and have your abdominal area (stomach) tucked in. Its also beneficial to keep your elbows in, this doesn't meant having them facing straight downwards but avoid them being wide apart.
Throwing the ball: before you bring the ball back to throw you should visualize where exactly your going to throw the ball and hold the ball in front of your face so that you can look down the length of the ball at your target.
You then bring the ball back behind your head, don't move your elbows positioning so you throw the ball down the line of your target.
 The line out throw  
bring the ball back slightly just before throwing it, this increases the power of your throw, then throw the ball.
To effectively throw the ball you need to get it to spiral, you do this by rolling your right hand. it should but a fast but controlled movement, at the end you want to follow through with your hands outstretched forward.

The line out throw
look at how his arms and hand are facing forward.
Getting a better technique: to get better simply comes from practice untill it becomes second nature.
luckily throwing in is one of those thing in rugby you can practice by your self.
You can simply draw a target on a wall and then try to hit from different distances away or instead use a bucket hanging from a branch and do the same.
Another important thing with throwing in is timing, desirably you want to throw the ball so it hits the hands of the person just as he gets to his peak height, this comes from practicing it with your jumpers.

Open play:
in open play you want to act as another loose forward, so you want to always be in support and be the first to breakdowns (read my guide for rucking here). This is a combination of reading the game (seeing where your needed by judging whats happening) and fitness.

top tips:
get fit!
learn how to hook.
practice throwing the ball in at line outs - remember the technique, foot placement, posture and your grip on the ball.

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