Lee Smith's Coaching Corner: Emerging trends in 7s rugby Underline 19 April, 2011 As the World Sevens Series progresses there are trends that are emerging that need to be identified, if not to use, to counteract in any team’s game plan. 

Those that come to mind are: 


1. When kicks are long if the chasing pattern is only partly formed across the field a more complete attacking line can position and pass to outflank the defence line. There is little point in having a partly formed chasing line. It has to be complete or a complete line that allows the attack to run towards but which is effective on contact. 

2. When the attack passes the ball across the full width of the field the defence is able to get offside unless a ruck is formed. So someone in the attack has to go into contact to re-establish the off-side line. The quicker the ball is re-cycled the defence will find themselves out of position as they will not have to have got back in time. This creates “dog leg” gaps that the attack can exploit. This is usually done by the player inside the defender who is ahead of the line to have a go. This takes the defender out of play and the attacker in his channel can receive a pass in space. 

3. From set pieces the attacking players committed to the scrum and line-out must re-load into a position deep on the ball as soon as possible as they offer an overlap when play is reversed. This is assisted by the attack in the line attacking a mismatch and getting in behind the defence line from which attacking support can run forward onto the ball. 

4. Depth is everything, not backing up to get depth but having it so that the receivers can run onto the passes made to them. If the defence backs up the standard pattern of defence is to move up as a line closing down their space between attack and defence so the attack never achieves its purpose. Often they revert to kick and chase so make sure there is a sweeper. 

5. The support that gives the greatest names of options is not just support with depth but linear behind the ball carrier and not lateral across the field. Linear support gives time and space for the receiver to adjust left or right and to adjust to the role best used. 

6. A runner should run at a defender to hold him. By pinning the defence the defender squares up and often gets flat footed. Having held the player the ball carrier can step left or right and accelerate away. The ball carrier sets up space to run into. 

7. Communication must be such that the team always players to the side where they have the greater numbers. This can be difficult as so many players are ball watching. This scanning is an essential role of the play maker. If the team goes the wrong play seek to take it forward as near to team-mates as possible, even head back to find them, and create a ruck to re-start the situation more effectively.


1. The defender on the inside shoulder of the ball carrier leads the defence up and the remaining player position in a flat arrowhead so that they have vision of the ball and the player in their channel. 

2. This position must be such that the tackle can be made on the player who cuts back trying to expose the weaker inside shoulder of the defender. This needs to be practiced as it is the way most tries are scored. 

3. The most effective tackles are those that take away the legs with a second player grabbing the ball. The least effective are tackles made on the cut back because poorly positioned players end up using only their arms. When the tackler is held up in an effort to get the scrum but be aware that currently most refs let the formation collapse and call it a ruck. 

4. Cues are important in triggering the defence to have a go at regaining the ball. Some of these are:
a. Attacker catching the ball standing still.
b. An attacker receiving a high pass, a low pass or a pass to him or behind him.
c. When the ball carrier is caught in a high body position in the tackle.
d. The slow arrival of the half back after the tackled player has placed the ball.
e. Your support has arrived first and has a lower body position. 

5. The tackle and the contest for the ball by the tackler, who doesn’t have to come through the gate, should be coached as one skill. 


1. Just remember that kick offs are the most common set pieces and possession can be retained when the team uses well practiced shallow kicks. 

2. The way alert teams, ensuring the ref can see it all, have been exploiting the 10m law when penalties and free kicks are give. 

3. The returns from shallow kick offs are limited because of poor chase patterns and inaccurate kicking. From the touch line the line of running of a jumper/catcher can be towards the ball making it easier to catch. Running down the field with the ball it is hard to catch a ball that is moving away from you. 

4. From a long kick off the chase pattern should offer the touch line channel and cut off passes infield. In this way the touchline can be used by the defence to cut off options. 

5. Compete in the air at line-outs to force the overthrow. Make sure you have cover infield for the overthrow. A 2 man lineout may help this. You can have fewer than your opponents.


1. Success in the games between the top games is based on a detailed analysis of the individual players in the opposing team to set up and exploit mismatches. 

2. Team selection is based on having back up in the functional roles. Amongst these roles in attack are:
a. Players who take it up strongly to draw in more than one defender.
b. Immediate support when the ball carrier goes to the ground.
c. Linear support looking for the overload when the ball is being taken up. Lateral support overshoots and support is too slow.
d. The role of the safety player who positions to see the options from a position in depth and who can go left or right.
e. A designated line-out forward who can fill other roles.
f. Sweepers when needed. It may be a waste to have a sweeper all the time.
g. The players may have 2-3 roles however there is a need for them to be interchangeable if only to surprise the opposition if they think they have a player worked out. 

3. Base all your practice activities on the reality of the game and not activities for their own sake. The situations that are often neglected are what to do after the initial play and the further the play goes the more the players become disoriented. This applies to the defence as well. 

4. Use the principles of Sevens in attack and defence (see below) to profile your team and your opponents so you can compare attack against defence. Principles identify what you are attempting to do and from this you can use the strengths and weaknesses of the talent in your team to identify how you will do it. These are your patterns of play. All of these require a realistic and detailed analysis of your team. You can also do this with your opponents if your team has options. In this case the options you choose are those used to exploit your strengths and expose their weaknesses.

- Gaining possession.
- Retaining possession.
- Creating space.
- Penetrating.
- Supporting. 

- Contesting possession.
- Denying space.
- Tackling.
- Regaining possession.

Lee Smith is a senior rugby development officer with the International Rugby Board and travels widely around the Pacific region coaching, developing and promoting the game.
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