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Catching and passing skills

Gloucester skills and development coach Denis Betts moved to rugby union in January 2006 after a glittering career in league.

The 37-year-old is one of British rugby league's all-time greats, winning 20 winners' medals during his 13-year career with Wigan and the Auckland Warriors, winning 32 caps for Great Britain along the way.

Betts tells BBC Sport why mastering the basic skills of rugby are so important.

Gloucester skills coach Denis Betts
By Denis Betts
Gloucester skills & development coach

You have to realise that the game of rugby is built on basics.

Gloucester skills coach Denis Betts
The clubs realise that they have to generate better all-round rugby players, not just better athletes

If you drift away from the core principles of catching, passing, running lines and tackle technique then you're in trouble.

Once you stop practising these things - even for the most talented players - like most things in life, the skills falls away very quickly.

We try to keep the ball in hand as much as possible in training and just drill the founding principles home.

It's all really simple stuff but fundamental to what you want at the end of it.

Without these blocks in place, you have no chance of developing a free-flowing game.

It's no good wanting to play a particular game plan if the players don't have the skills to execute it. So you have to start from scratch and look at the individual.

Coaching skills is a satisfying job, but - in all honesty - it can be quite dull at times.

Once you've put the basics in place, you have to keep drilling them again and again. There's a lot of repetition involved, but that's the nature of the beast.

I try to develop little drills and games so it's not too boring - but essentially it is!

Gloucester's line-out works to a tee against Saracens
The line-out is a fundamental part of rugby union

Concentrating on skills is something that has evolved in rugby league over time and in union now that the professional era has taken hold of the game.

The clubs realise that they have to generate better all-round rugby players, not just better athletes.

When I first moved to union from league, I did notice a difference but I think a lot of that is down to the intricacies of the set-pieces in union.

The detail within the set-piece and contact area is such that certain things get lost. People were trying to concentrate on so many different aspects of the game.

You're trying to develop a fully functioning line-out, a strong scrum and a creative backline.

In bringing all that together, you can lose sight of the fact that none of that works unless you do the simple things properly.

You need to have quality hand-eye co-ordination, to know how to hold the ball properly, to know how to hold the ball when you go into contact and so on.

All these are little things that you don't often think about because they are just part of the game. But they are things you have to work on constantly so they really do become second nature.

Gloucester fly-half Ryan Lamb
Ryan Lamb is rated as one of the brightest young talents in English rugby

Some people say I'm lucky teaching skills to players like Ryan Lamb and Anthony Allen and to a certain extent they're right - they are skilful players anyway.

They've come up through good systems, and it's just a case of me refining the skills they already have.

Good players are good players; all we're doing is getting them ready to be even better players.

As a former rugby league player and coach I think the general standard of skills in the Premiership is high.

My perception of the game has changed drastically since I joined Gloucester.

Until you look into it, you don't realise how detailed line-outs are and how much time has to be spent on them and how skilled front rowers have to be in the scrum.

All these almost unseen skills are constantly going on.

It's a brilliant place for me to be in terms of my career, I'm learning so much and spending time with quality players.

Denis Betts was talking to Phil Harlow

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