This handbook offers practical advice for preparing Sevens teams as well as providing a calendar of events for all the regional Sevens tournaments to be held over the next 12 months.
Our thanks to the organizers for putting it together and we trust you enjoy being part of the NZ Sevens scene at a key time in the development of the game both here and overseas.
Speed, Flair, Skill and Teamwork - all the attributes of a successful Sevens team and also attributes that we believe Telecom brings to the marketplace.
The object of this book is to promote the game of Sevens through providing relevant, up to date tournament and coaching information and we trust you enjoy what we think will become the "Guide" to Sevens Rugby in New Zealand.
With the launch of the International Sevens Series in 1999, Sevens rugby faces an exciting future and one that Telecom looks forward to being a part of.
Mohan Jesudason General Manager Business
Welcome to the NZ Sevens Handbook, a publication that has been designed to provide comprehensive information on Sevens Rugby. We would like this handbook to become the Guide for Sevens Rugby and we intend to update it each year so it is of value to coaches, players and administrators.
Our thanks to Gordon Tietjens, Wayne Smith and Peter Thorburn for contributing coaching information. To Mike Kerriske and Red 8 for the latest Nutrition information and to each provincial union for your tournament details.
We also take this opportunity to thank Telecom for their generous sponsorship as well as our other supporting companies, McDonalds, Budget Rental Cars, Williment Travel and TNL Print & Graphics.
Please feel free to contact us with any feedback or comment.
Ashley Smith, Editor
This booklet has been compiled as a result of the enthusiastic influence of two dedicated Sevens rugby people. Richard Crawshaw who managed the New Zealand Sevens team, and the coach of the Dallas RFC. Charles Lueckemeyer, who introduced Lis to sevens rugby in the USA including the Las Vegas Midnight Sevens. The contents of this publication is subject to copyright and cannot be published without the written permission of the publisher who can be contacted C/o Taranaki Newspapers Ltd, P.O. BOx444, New Plymouth, New Zealand. Phone (06) 758 0559, Fax (o6) 759 o814 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
"It's been a significant project but one that we think will add real value to the development of rugby in the future" said Wallace. "Sevens will be a catalyst like, the one day version has been for cricket, in terms of rugby exposure, especially in new and developing countries. You only have to took at the tremendous public and media interest in the sevens at the Commonwealth Games and at the Sevens World Cup at Hong Kong last year to get a feel for what sevens could do for the fifteens game on a global basis, he said."
According to Wallace, although the NZRFU had taken some criticism for shifting the Telecom National Sevens from March to November, it was important to realize that the date change was necessary to ensure that sevens was able to develop its own profile and that a meaningful national tournament could be held to select aTelecom New Zealand squad for the upcoming international tournaments.
"We were aware that the March date for the nationals was popular and that there were really good club and regional tournaments leading into the nationals. However you have to remember that, with the Super 12 series up and running and the fact that a New Zealand squad had to be selected for the Punta Argentinian Sevens, (on Jan 16th), it was critical that sevens was given its own slot on the rugby calendar. It also means it doesn't have to compete head to head with the Super 12," said Wallace.
"Before last year there were only four tournaments (Argentina, Hong Kong, Fiji and Japan) that we competed in as an official NZ side. With the expansion of the International series and our requirement that we can only select a New Zealand squad from the Telecom Nationals, we had to move the domestic competition to November," he added. According to Wallace the other benefit was that as a different type of fitness and training is required for Sevens, the timing of the Nationals in November would mean that players had a six-week build-up for specialist Sevens training and would no longer have to juggle it around 15's training as was happening in March.
"The Sevens programme will be focussed on providing development opportunities for younger players and as All Blacks and Super 12 players are ineligible for selection there is a real opportunity for younger players to use Sevens as a stepping stone toward a professional rugby career," he said.
There will be 20 contracts available and the intention is to select a squad Of 40 from the Telecom Nationals that will attend a training camp and trials in Mid-December from which the final squad will be selected for the international series.
One person who has been at the coal face of the International Series is the ex-NZRFU Manager of professional rugby Fraser Neill, who now works for the International Rugby Board in Dublin as Tournament Director.
According to Neill there is likely to be 14 tournaments held in four regional clusters running from January through to late June or early July.
"Although all the dates and logistics are still to be worked through the intention is to run the tournaments in regional clusters. This should minimize the travel hassles and help create interest on a regional basis. We will only be interested in quality tournaments and the regional clusters could be based around Asia, Europe, America and the Pacific. For example the Asian Regional League could consist of tournaments in Hong Kong, Singapore, China and Japan and this type of detail has yet to be confirmed."
Neill says that although the series will be officially launched in December, player availability, especially from the Northern hemisphere, had yet to be confirmed. "It is likely that the leading Sevens countries would become "core" teams for each tournament with regional teams added to give each event a local flavour," he said. "It is obvious that a professional circuit would need a critical mass of quality teams, so this is why New Zealand will need 20 contracted players to represent our country."
Neill said that the level of interest from other countries was encouraging and that the appeal of Sevens in developing nations was evident in the applications received to host the Sevens World Cup in 2001. "We have had confirmed applications from Canada, Argentina, Ireland and Spain so the interest is really growing and it will be fascinating how countries use Sevens rugby over the next few years to develop players and gain international recognition. Sevens in New Zealand has helped development of both high profile players like Christian Cullen and Jonah Lomu and some relatively unknown players like Rico Gear, Rua Tipoki, and Blair Foote who have all made an impact in the N PC. Who knows what countries the stars of the future will come from," he added with a smile.
"It will be an exciting opportunity for all Sevens players", was Gordon Tietjens' reaction to the announcement of the World Sevens Circuit. Typical stuff from a coach who always puts the interests of players first and the guy who saw NZ through to a gold medal performance at the Commonwealth Games.
"It is tremendously positive to have the green light on the international circuit as this will position the game as a global sport. This development will provide players with additional opportunities and exposure and will help to keep them in the game here in NZ. I am a firm believer that Sevens complements the fifteen's game as it really helps players develop their skill and fitness base and encourages a high work rate.
This series will enable the game to be professional around the world and players will get to tour countries that they would normally never get to visit. I think the Southern Hemisphere countries will benefit most initially as Sevens is treated more seriously than in the Northern Hemisphere. Countries in South America and Asia are right behind the sport and turning in some really good performances. Argentina is hosting the next Sevens World Cup, while teams like Korea are really difficult to beat and their knowledge of the game is good. Players from places like Malaysia, China Taipei, Japan and the Pacific Islands are really good ball players and are showing real promise and doing well.
These countries may struggle at fifteens but are using Sevens to develop talent as New Zealand, Australia and South Africa are doing with their younger players. The Northern Hemisphere has fallen a bit behind but they have to took at the way their game is being managed and with Sevens expected to be a part of the Manchester Commonwealth Games, this will help to build the profile for the sport, especially in the UK.
This World Series will encourage countries to secure the best tournaments and work hard on quality like Japan and Malaysia have achieved over the last couple of years. It is ironic but Australia and New Zealand will need to took at hosting an international tournament as I've been involved for a number of years and the NZ team hasn't had the opportunity to play at home yet.
Sevens is really growing at the moment and in New Zealand the attitude and commitment from administrators and fifteens coaches has really changed from even two years ago. There seems to be more understanding that Sevens is there to provide benefits and NPC and Super 12 coaches are more supportive. The international series is timed to keep away from the N PC and players are a lot fitter when they come back and will have more impact. The NPC performances of guys who went to the Commonwealth Games is a good example of this.
My coaching philosophy has changed as I am clearly aware that Sevens is there for development and winning tournaments is not the only goal as it is important that we bring through quality players. I get a lot of pleasure in seeing young players come through the Sevens system and achieve NPC and Super 12 success. It is a young man's game and, unless their goal is to be a specialist Sevens player, most want to use Sevens as a stepping stone to fifteens.
In terms of player selections, a quality I look for is work ethic and work rate and pace is especially important. Skill level and vision are also a priority.
Depending on the type of talent available I normally tailor the style of Sevens to suit the team you select. When the All Blacks were available for Sevens pace was the main pre-requisite, not just on attack but also on defence. Sometimes I go for size as the game now is definitely more confrontational. We like to use the width of the field to use space and spread the defence to let the guys have a go. Big forwards can be utilised as they can tie up a couple of defenders and off-load to a support player as space would have been created.
New Zealand is small in terms numbers playing the game of sevens. I know that unions have to use what they have available and for the Nationals to ensure that players have an opportunity to be seen, Nominations are always sought from participating unions.
Good Sevens players need to be playing Sevens. It is much easier to make the transitions from Sevens to fifteens rather than the other way round. I'm keen to ensure that we keep some Sevens tournament play happening in New Zealand in late January and February prior to the traditional fifteens season. There are so many benefits to players in terms of improving their work rate by playing Sevens that I'm kind of surprised more club coaches don't make playing Sevens pre-season a compulsory part of each player's programme.
We are going to be busy over the next few months with Sevens as the 40 players that we select from the Telecom Nationals wit[ attend a three-day training camp in mid-December to select the 20-man squad that we will use in the World Series. I will behaving discussions with the NZRFU to help develop a strategic direction for Sevens which will hopefully include looking at getting Sevens more established in schools. This will extend the player depth for Sevens and strengthen the tournament play as well. All in all, it's a pretty exciting time and one that will certainly keep us busy.
COACHING SEVENs RUGBY -
by WAYNE SMITH
Wayne Smith was one of NZ's best Sevens players from 1984 to 1988 and coached the New Zealand Sevens team from 1990-92. He is now Head Coach for the Super 12 Canterbury Crusaders.
COACHING CONCEPTS TO CONSIDER - By WAYNE SMITH
SEVENS IS ALL ABOUT POSSESSION. THE KEY REQUIREMENTS ARE TO WIN THE BALL AND TO KEEP THE BALL.
THE KEY FACTOR IS anticipation. You should (up to a point) reflect what the opposition is doing. You must be flexible. If the opposition line 6 receivers out on one side, it's a fair bet that they will kick-off to that side.
Generally, however, you have 4-up and 3-back.
Hints on receiving a kick-off
Players need strength, speed, courage and aggression, and must practice ball-winning skills. Attacks can only be sustained with good support-play.
There is a responsibility on the ball carrier not to isolate himself.
The team in possession must use the full width of the field. The wider the attacking players are apart, the wider the defence must be, and the bigger the gaps will be.
There is an unbending rule that following the breakdown, the ball MUST BE moved away from the area of congestion IMMEDIATELY. It is fundamental that the ball be passed, scooped or kicked out rather than run out from the area close to a breakdown. The exception of course is if a try can be scored.
Decision-making is a huge part of sevens. The best decisions must be made remembering that possession is essential, but that tries must be scored to win the game
Each person in the defence has a zone to cover and a man to mark.
From the outset players will find themselves guarding certain avenues on the field. These will remain their responsibility until a breakdown in play. Players will not always slot into the same area. How well they defend their zone depends on agility, good lateral movement, communication, peripheral vision and decision making.
Man to man marking is a vital part of good defence. The emphasis should be to concentrate on the man, and not on the ball (use peripheral vision to be aware of the ball movement). Too much ball-watching by defenders can allow their opponents to create openings and overlaps by running off the ball into new positions.
"The Sweeper" is a player who covers behind the defensive line. It is essential to cut-off kicks and cover breaks. "The sweeper" can be positioned continually behind the line. However this means there are only 6 players in the defensive line, marking 7 attacking players. This creates difficulties and takes a lot of practice to master. Once mastered it is very effective.
An alternative method is to sweep from the outsides i.e. as the ball is moved to the far side of the field, the near side "wing" covers. He returns to his original defensive position as the ball comes back to his side of the field, and the far side "wing" covers. This also must be practised a lot. All players must be able to sweep using this method, as any player could be caught on the "wing" at some stage.
As the ball is moved from side to side, the blanket defence must squeeze up and maintain its alignment. The sooner and closer the blanket defence can move to its opponents, the greater will be the pressure exerted. The defence must also move laterally as a unit, shadowing the passage of the ball.
The general idea is to create 2 or 3 lines of defence.
Smother tackle is the order of the day. The aim is to be on your feet before the opposition. Making decisions about when to commit yourself to the tackle are important.
The scrum is the most important set piece due to frequency.
The options at scrum time are as follows;
His role is a key one;
You must win your own ball. Work out variations.
On opposition ball, position the hooker back 15m in the "tramlines" so he can sweep as well as cover the blind- side.
By Peter Thorburn
TEAM SELECTION AND PLAYER TYPES
Look for speed - the ability to carry a move 50 - 60 metres to score. Good one on one defensive skills. Good ball skills and agility. Halfback - needs sharp acceleration and sustained speed - passing not paramount. "' 5/8 - must be play maker - a non stop runner. 2nd 5/8 - sharp with sustained speed. Has to have good vision and great defence. Wing - Speed, Speed, Speed and ability to retrieve kicks and support breaks. Hooker - Speed - Speed - Speed. Good tackler and organiser of defence. Props - Fast - strong - and agile. Has to win kick offs. Because there are few lineouts - height is not the main prerequisite for forwards, although forwards have to be able to compete for possession at kickoffs.
Peter Thorburn is an ex NZ Sevens Coach who also coached North Harbour and revolutionalised the game of Sevens in New Zealand by speeding the game up and introducing aggressive forward play. He is now retired and lives in Omaha and can be contacted at his home on (09) 422 9800.
Make sure the timing of your event best suits your participants. Consider what other summer sports events or activities may impact on player availability (such as Cricket, Softball, Touch Rugby) and time your tournament accordingly. Depending on the size and the level of competition it is generally possible to host most tournaments in one day and with the increase in floodlight grounds, twilight or day/night tournaments are becoming increasingly popular both in NZ and overseas. Consider the availability of grounds as many have other bookings to consider.
If players are travelling to the tournament, consider what arrangements may best suit them. A later start for the travelling teams is always appreciated and Saturday play may suit teams if return travel is a factor.
Don't overlook the requirements of your own organising team if club volunteers are needed to help manage the tournament. Check what other tournaments are on and that you are not going head to head with other established events. Register your event with your Rugby Union.
The size of your venue will determine the size of your tournament and over what period you need to run the event.
For example, most tournaments that have access to three fields can comfortably run a 24 team tournament over a 6-7 hour period.
When selecting or preparing your venue keep players and spectator comfort in mind as, depending on the time of year, heat and turf conditions can be a concern for players Two overseas sevens events that demonstrate this are the Los Vegas Midnight Sevens which because of the heat is played at night, and the Dubai Sevens which is played on a specialty prepared sand turf. Check that fields can be marked out and posts up and watch if irrigation is required to obtain good grass cover. Give clubs plenty of notification about your tournament and be aware that it can take 2-3 years to get a tournament well established.
Seeding teams are an acceptable way to ensure that the level of competition builds throughout the tournament and that the best teams advance through to the final rounds. Most tournaments structure their "pool play" so that all teams play the same number of games over a similar time frame. Teams should at least get to play 3 or 4 games in a one day tournament. The higher the level of competition, the longer the recovery period for players so pay close attention to the timing of the "Post Section" or finals to ensure that there is continuity for the spectators and a fair recovery period. Most tournaments offer different tiers of competition to allow teams to play against teams of similar ability. Teams will contest for the Cup, Bowl, Shield and Plate and you can have up to four finals. 24 team (played in 8 pools of three teams,) or 16 teams (played in 4 Pools Of 4 teams) are the most popular.
You can run different grades for Colts and Womens competition and different weight divisions if you have a large enough venue. This can encourage more participation and add value to your tournament. The Telecom National Sevens now has a Womens rugby division and in the USA many tournaments have "over 200lbs" divisions to allow tight forwards to compete. Weigh-in's are held prior to the start of the tournament and each players weight is recorded. Registering players at the start of the tournament can prevent teams "stacking" talent and creating an unfair advantage in the final rounds.
Most tournaments are funded through user pays, sponsorship and trading activities. Entry fees vary depending on the level of competition, the prize pool available and the level of services provided. For example the NZ Maori Sevens tournament in January has a $1,2oo entry fee (or $1oo per player and officials) but covers all accommodation, food, medical and tournament costs. Most tournaments put the entry fees received into the prize pool and rely on sponsorship and bar and food income to cover the cost of hosting the tournament. The prize pool will generally depend on the prestige of the tournament and what's at stake for the players.
Always have a good liaison person to liaise with the teams and make sure they are familiar with the draw and tournament rules. Taking care of team requirements such as tents, water, ice, physiotherapy and first aid is appreciated.
Take care of your referees and ensure that they are well briefed. Generally referees enjoy a pre-season sevens tournament to help their fitness.
Sevens is a great spectator sport as it is fast, furious and has plenty of action. A good PA announcer can help build the atmosphere and entertainment between games can really add to spectator appeal and value.
Make sure the local media are aware of the tournament to ensure good promotion and invite selectors or rep coaches to attend to assess player talent. Nearly all NPC coaches now attend the National Telecom Sevens to view the younger players on display.
Use the contacts in this publication to talk to other event organisers and be prepared to travel to other events to get first hand experience.
Remember sevens is generally an amateur game so make sure all officials and players have FUN and enjoy their involvement.
This is what I label as the "earn factor". Improved performance and recovery will not happen after one session of skills and drills training. Nor will it happen after one container of multi-vitamin tablets have been taken.
Improved physical fitness and well being is something that must be earned. You have to put in some hard work. Equal time and effort must be put into incorporating and developing each of the above mentioned categories into your regime. Periodising your training programme for certain times of your season and year is critical for constant progress and keeping you from going "flat". Improving attitude and performance and recovery through nutrition and sensible supplementation is just as important. A basic grounding in nutrition that will work for you will include.
Foods can be broken down into three basic groups, Carbohydrates - Proteins - Fats The majority of your food intake (calories) should come from carbohydrate. They are responsible for the energy levels (glycogen) you require to fire. Choose both high (simple sugars) and low (complex sugares) glycemic carbohydrates. High glycemic wilt give you a quick release of blood glucose which is ideal just prior to or immediately following exercise but the energy obtained is very short lived. Eat predominantly low-glycernic carbohydrate for a much more sustained and even release of glucose/glycogen and this will ensure consistent energy levels.
Low glycemic carbs include - Kumara, Yams, Brown Rice, Rolled Oats, Potato, Apples, Oranges as far as fruit options. Vary up your carbohydrate options and spread them throughout the day. Your largest serve of the above depending on activity should NOT be at night, preferably midday. Proteins are the building blocks for all lean mass in the body with water extracted from the body the next most abundant element is protein, so, it makes sense to pay special attention to your individual protein requirements and obtaining quality sources. I have found that, with rugby athletes especially, you are either taking "no where near enough" or excessive amounts of protein, there is no in-between. First of all, you can change the recommended daily allowance (RDA) or protein for an individual. There are now numerous studies showing that at the RDA of .8 gm protein / kg of bodyweight an athlete as physically active as a rugby player would go into a catabolic state. That is, you would lose muscle. I don't know anyone wanting to do that. Protein requirements are more like 1.4 - 1.5 gm protein / kg bodyweight. That's nearly twice the RDA. Please seek the advise of a qualified person to workout your requirements. Do not ignore the fact that like it or not, we need fats in our diet for critical nutritional balance. I'm not talking about post-match sausage rolls or fish & chips.
All you are getting there is saturated fat. Saturated fats will inevitably be stored as body fat. Obtain fats through fish oils, flax oils and other sources or omega 3, omega 6 and omega 9 essential fatty acids.
Supplementation. I firmly believe sensible supplementation can play a major beneficial role in one's performance and recovery when added to your nutrition programme. Remember supplementation means "as well as" - not "instead of ". Do not make them the main stay of your nutritional habits. Food comes first. However I do label some products as being a must to consider for rugby athletes. There are: Multi Vitamin/Mineral Combination, fluid electrolyte replacement drinks, branch chain aminos (HMB Glutamine) and Creating Monohydrate. Once again seek the advice of a professional and don't rely on the "expertise" of your mates, just because it worked for them. Also it does pay to spend a little more on your products - choose company products that are designed specifically with rugby in mind. They are out there and you will be the beneficiary. The difference in how you perform and recover has come down to what you put in your mouth. Realise it - the sooner the better.
Michael Kerrisk is a practising sports nutrition consultant. He works with rugby's top athletes and teams including; members of the All Blacks, Canterbury, Auckland 'A', Northland and the Fijian World Cup Squad. He is available for public seminars and individual consultations. Contact (09) 373 2776 or 025 861004.