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IRB SEVEN-A-SIDE COACHING MANUAL
The defensive forwards occupy a zone or lane across the width of the field and align with the players already forming the defensive pattern. Alternatively they defend in a man-on-man formation. While the hooker may be able to leave the scrurn quickly,' binding would prevent the player from immediately going forward. This role in triggering off the defence pattern could fall to the loosehead prop, as the player is less bound to the scrum and may be able to leave immediately and move forward. The early release of the hooker enables this player to position in defence, on the blindside. if it is not worth contesting the ball after the hook the scrum-half may position on the blindside, especially to the right.
See Diagram (16) - Positioning during and after lineouts
Consequently, players make space for themselves by feigning back or forward and then moving in the opposite direction to make the catch. Players who are physically superior to their opponents may not need to use distractions to contest the throw. if a playerjumps to catch the ball before an opponent, the space the player moves into will prevent the opponent from recovering. This is assisted by the player stepping into the space and jumping vertically. Of course, if the player is supported in the air, the position is even more stable, preventing opponents from contesting the ball. Players may support thejumper to make the catch. In most cases only one support player is used. To allow for both movement and support, the jumper moves towards the support player, who then supports the player in gaining height and stability in the air.
A further option is for the scrum-half to enter a gap in the lineout to catch the ball. This may be in front of, behind or between the two lineout jumpers. The scrum-half may also be used as a support player, with the thrower playing scrum-half. Support results in delivery from the lineout being more controlled than scrums. Attacking play can be made directly from the lineout because of the space available. Options using the forwards and the scrum-half to attack the defence line directly from the lineout, enables good use of the number of players grouped in this area. This option is particularly available if the opposition do not contest the throw as there is no need to support the jumper in the air. This frees the other forwards to attack immediately at the line of touch. The defensive lineout must be careful not to over-commit themselves contesting the ball. Over commitment will create gaps in the defence elsewhere.
The aim of these options is twofold. Initially, the aim is to win possession and secondly, to pass the ball to a player in space. This space will probably be created by the positioning and movement of the opposing players. These are practiced moves but they will only give an advantage at the time if the behaviour of the opposing players permits. At the immediate lineout this may be difficult. However, as players react in the same way at successive lineouts, especially If their positioning has been previously exploited, planned moves can occur at the next lineout.
Examples of these options are as follows:
The space that is available to attack into, can equally result in a player becoming isolated by the defence. To avoid isolation supporting players must provide options for the ball carrier. The key to support is depth, so that when the ball is passed it is passed to space and the receiver can run into the space to catch and continue play.
The support must also be in width, to spread the defence and create gaps to penetrate. Depth and width create a platform for penetration. if a player moves into contact, either to go forward and penetrate the defence or to draw the defence to create space elsewhere, the ball carrier must have in mind how possession will be retained if the attempt to penetrate is unsuccessful. This can be called the escape route. Some examples of escape routes are:
In order to retain possession the ball carrier must be careful not to be tackled while running across field. While a defender may be evaded, it is good practice to straighten up as soon as possible. if the player cannot go -forward because of pressure, it is better to stand or back-up rather than run across field.
Running across field takes up the space of other players and enables the defence to make a side-on tackle. Team-mates must be alert and move back into the space created.
In general these should be tap kicks as it is more important to retain possession, than kick for touch from those awarded inside the 2-2-metre line. This depends on the state of play.
The use of these also depends on the state of play. Each option has the same advantages as in the 15-a-side game, however, the reduced duration of Sevens and the space available to attack into most likely places greater emphasis on the use of the tap-kick.
The options are:
In all kicks the advantage obtained by the kick is only as good as the pattern used to chase the ball. This pattern may not necessarily move forward at great speed, but it must be organised to reduce attacking options. Players should be alert to the options.
RETAINING POSESSION Now the escape route to take advantage of the numerical advantage elsewhere, as two defenders have been committed.
The wider the player stands, the wider the defence stands and the greater the gaps between players. However, the space must not be so great that the distance and slowness of the pass allows a defender to tackle the receiver as the ball is being caught. Lateral space may be created by the formation as mentioned above. The pattern is usually to have seven players across the field aligned on the ball carrier.
Making the ball available
See Diagram (1) - Lateral space To create linear space, teams often back up towards their own goal line while retaining their formation. As they get closer to their goal line, they become conscious of it. It becomes a psychological wall and they lose their depth.
In doing so, the team loses its ability to attack the on-coming defence because they are too shallow to receive a pass, from which they can run forward at pao-e. it is therefore essential that teams decide on how much territory they are willing to concede in order to create space. Secondly, they must decide what their reaction should be if there is insufficient space i.e. how they are going to attack the defence. This will depend onte positioning of the opposition.
Some options are:
Lateral space for penetration is created by the positioning of the opposition and the depth in alignment of the attack. If the defence is grouped, space will exist on the outside, while if it is spread, space will exist between players.
To exploit these situations, the attack should align as close to the defence as their passing skills will allow. This will reduce the defence's reaction time giving them little time to recover if they haven't'read' the attack and acted correctly.
When a ball carrier attempts to penetrate, the extent to which the attack is forced is a matter of judgement. The ball carrier may well go all the way and score, secondly, as defenders converge, a method of transferring the ball to support must be found. Finally, the ball carrier may pull back retreating into space to avoid isolation and from this position reset play.
To exploit space on the outside, the attack must first decide which side to attack This will be a matter of numbers. The direction left or right will be the one in which there are more attacking players than defence. As the defence usually will have a sweeper, they will be outnumbered in their front line of defence. It is a matter of deciding which side to go.
If the sweeper joins the front line to create man-on-man defence, linear space is left to kick the ball into and chase. To retain the overlap, each passer should commit a defender before passing. To do this, each player should drift in as they catch the ball, holding the defence on their inside shoulder.
If the defence drifts wide to counter the overlap, the ball carrier should take the gap that has been left. If the defence is held in position, the overlap will be retained and progress made down the field.
Patterns to use the extra man three-on-two
Attacking gaps between spread defenders is the same as taking the gap that a defender has drifted away from. Within a defensive line, the gap is created by the ball carrier drifting in, and the next player drifting out. This will increase the size of the gap that another player can move into.
If the ball carrier's defender does not continue to defend the player and drifts wide to tackle the player entering the gap, the ball carrier should take the gap. if the player stays with the ball carrier, the pass can be made as space will exist.
This can be achieved even if the defender moves back to make the tackle. When the ball carrier takes the gap, the tackle is likely to come from the defender, who will check and tackle from the outside. The ball carrier will have forced the defence to tackle from the outside in. Space will be created in the space the tackler has moved away from. It is into this space that the pass can be made to penetrate. This will be a channel pass or a screen pass. if the next player's defender does not drift out to follow the next attacking player in the line, then the pass can be made to this player who can take the gap.
If both defenders stay in position, the gap will exist for a third attacking player coming between them.
Both options, the overlap and penetrating through the gap, are based on a situation in which the attack has one more player than the defence. This player threatens the gap and the defence. If the defence doesn't react the player is able to penetrate. If they do, the player they have been drawn away from can penetrate. The ability to read this situation and anticipate and react to the defence's behaviour takes much practice.
In Sevens this is not always the case and numbers may be even. In this situation a number of different options emerge.
In Sevens the situation can be manipulated to create mismatches in the attacking teams favour. By spreading across the field, the attack forces the defence to do the same. This isolates both the attacker and the defender, creating a one-on-one match up. The mismatch will enable the attacker to use superior attacking skills to penetrate. If this happens on the flanks, the defender will be able to use the touchline to drive the attacker out of play. When it because the defenders can use the touchline as an extra player and force a turnover, by gaining the throw in to the lineout.
Al has the ball, threatens Di and then D2. D2 moves towards Al to tackle, Al passes to A2 in space.
Al runs at D1 and then threatens the gap between D1 and D2- D1 is forced to make a low tackle enabling Al to pass to support inside on the left.
Al draws D1 and then threatens the space between Di and D2. D2 moves forward of D1, Al grubber-kicks behind D2- for A2 to run and pick up the ball
Al threatens the gap between Di and D2, D2 remains wide to defend A2- D1 is drawn across to tackle Al. Al scissor passes to A2 who penetrates into the space D1 has moved from. If D1 doesn't move across Al retains the ball and penetrates.
Al draws D1 and passes to A2. A2 draws and passes to Al on the right, A1 having doubled round Al can double round A2 to create a 3 on 2 situation. If the defence drifts across the options described in 2 VS 2 apply.
When operating as a unit the team can use the options available to any backline in the 15-a-side game, whose aim it is to put a player into space. All the same key factors apply and the 'backline' can operate without having to contend with defensive forwards. Equally, however, there are no forwards available to support the attack.
One such pattern would be to set up two waves with one creating space for the other and offering options. These waves are difficult to establish from set pieces because there are too few players available. However they can be used when the attack is reversed, when the forwards are no longer tied up in the scrum and lineout. These waves can be set up at any time during the play.
This pattern creates a number of options. In this formation the first wave would be A1-A4 and the second A5-A7
A2 passes to A3, doubles round, receives the ball on the inside and penetrates between D2 and D3.
A2 passes to A3 and doubles round A3, receives the ball on the inside and passes to A5 or A6, or A7. These players can then perform 2 VS. 2, 3 Vs. 3 or 2 Vs. 3, manoeuvres.
A4 may stand deep enough to receive from A2, adding a further player to the second wave.
From set pieces an impact player can be used, even though that player mcly have initially been involved in winning the ball. To enable the player to move to a penetrating position, the ball is immediately passed across the field to the player on the flanks. The direction of the attack is then reversed. The penetrator, having taken up a deep position can accelerate into a gap between two defenders to penetrate.
It is the role of the play maker to identify favourable mismatches in attack, placing the attacking player in a one-on-one with space around, enabling the defender to be beaten.
The attacking team can help itself greatly by its positioning. If it stands wide it can spread the defence, creating gaps between players. If it takes up less lateral space and the defence follows then there is space on the flanks to run extra players into. If, on the other hand, the defence remains spread, they will be forced to defend outside-in. This means that they will have to move in to make the tackle as the ball carrier threatens the gap. The space they have moved away from will now be vacant. The ball carrier can now pass into, it for a team-mate to catch the ball and penetrate. Consequently, it is not always best to spread across the field. This depends on the positioning of the opposing team. What is wrong is to bunch, especially when going into contact. if the ball carrier loses the ball, the opposing team will have space to pass, run and score. It is crucial to decide how many players will commit to ensure possession is retained and what their roles will be to ensure this. This will now be explained in Supporting Play.
From scrum and lineout there are offside lines giving the attack linear space ahead to attack. However, once the ball has been won, the limited number of players in a Sevens match seldom create rucks and mauls. Consequently, the relevant Law is offside in general play, which places few restrictions on the positioning of the defenders.
The defence can stand next to an attacker ready to tackle the player should the ball be passed. The threat to this positioning is the ability of the ball carrier to either kick into space ahead so the ball is recovered or to penetrate using the gap in the defence. This has implications for support play as defenders can stand in the gap between attackers, cutting off lateral passes. Should the ball carrier penetrate, support can accelerate past their individual defenders. However, if this does not occur, the defence is in a position to cut off the ball when it is passed. To overcome this, the ball carrier must attack the defensive line. This is best done by attacking a gap to draw the defender away from space, so that the ball can be passed into that space.
To create the space, the ball carrier must evade the defender. By doing this the tackle will be low around the lower part of the attacker's body, freeing the arms to make the pass. To Use this space, the support players need only stand directly behind the ball carrier initially and run on, in the same line, as the ball carrier moves the defender away. This supporting player is often the player who hasjust passed the ball. Care must be taken not to run across in the direction of passing before supporting, allowing the defence to drift. Once the pass has been made, the player must position in depth so that play can be entered into, by running down the field and not across which is much less effective. In 15-a-side rugby, offside lines at scrum, lineout, ruck and maul give the attack linear space. These occur less frequently in Sevens. In 15-a-side, the grouping of players at ruck, maul, scrum and lineout creates space wide out. This doesn't occur frequently in Sevens either.
Therefore, teams are no worse off if they attack from the outhalf and not positions further along the line. This is because there is no grouping of players breaking from scrum, ruck or maul that are to be avoided. But what can happen is that the defence can be drawn in when the attack attacks in a single lane, with the ball carrier creating space for the player coming from behind.
To defend the constant probing down a single lane, the defence will have to leave their lateral positions and come in to tackle, They will then leave space laterally so that if a try is not scored by linear support by passing wide, the opportunity to score a try will be created.