Seven-a-side Rugby : Fewer Rucks, fewer Mauls, more Rugby!
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Sevens Special
About 7s Special Introduction Seven and Fifteens Basic guide
History of Sevens Melrose and Middlesex Hong Kong Taupiri
7s in USA Seven Styles Attack Deffense
Kickoffs and DropOuts Set Scrums Lineouts Set Plays
Kicking Drills for Sevens Three-week practice A 7s program
Fitness & Training Fitness Testing Selection Analyisis Using Videotape
Americanizing Sevens Bibliography Acknowledgements Profile

Sample Practice Sessions for Sevens

"We're gonna get in two good hours of practice even if it takes six hours." -- Lou Holtz

Knowing all the elements of the game isn't enough unless you can put them together for the players in a form that they'll understand, buy into, and execute properly in competition.

There is no magic involved in putting together practices; what is requires is lots of thought and lots of hard work.

This chapter will present a three week program to prepare a club for an important tournament.

In addition, I will include, as reference material, my notes from two separate select-side practice itineraries. The first is a two-day practice schedule for the Eastern All-Star squad of 18, preparing for the 1988 ITT 7s (the US national All-Star championships); the second the Eagles' practices prior to the 1988 Hong Kong and Sydney Sevens.

A Three-Week Practice Schedule

What follows is a suggested set of 6 practices that you might conduct to prepare a club for an important sevens tournament: they are designed for a club that already has good, basic rugby skills, can play fifteens comfortably with most clubs at its own level, and needs work specifically in the aspects of the game that distinguish sevens from 15s.

Obviously, how you practice sevens will depend both on your approach to practice formats, as well as the style of play that you choose; what follows, together with much of this book, is my own personal approach to the game.

In many cases I will give two variations, depending on whether or not you have at least 14 players available to practice (having 14 makes practicing the game a lot easier). Each practice comprises 2 1/2 hours, including 15 minutes of stretching, from 6 PM until 8:30 on pleasant summer evenings.

The 2 1/2 hours are broken up more or less into five half-hour segments as follows (although there are many exceptions to these guidelines in the sample practices that follow):

1. Warm up, stretch, handle

2. Unopposed open field play (e.g. variations of and from swivel line)

3,4. Set pieces and subsequent play.

5. Competitions

Practice #1:

Topics: Introduction / Swivel Line / Defense / Kick Offs

6:00-6:15 Light Jog and Stretch

6:15-6:30 Handling Drills of your choice

6:30-6:40 Talk. Introduction to the principles of sevens.

6:40-7:00 Unopposed open-field play. If you're using it, incorporate the swivel line and variations; emphasize the use of space and the importance of being behind the ball at all times: force the swivel player to get behind the ball.

I prefer to do this with 7 to a group, using the width of the field, but it might be instructive at first to do it with 4 or 5 players per group just to get the concept across. One reason I work on the swivel line early in practice is that the principles behind it work into most of what we will do throughout the practice.

It's not too early to begin to stress the importance of constant communication; force the players to be giving information to each other throughout the exercise.

For this first practice, it might be sufficient to limit the options to a few simple ones (see Chapter C1 for a discussion of drills).

7:00-7:10 Defense. Walk through the principles of the defense or defenses you might choose to play. In 6 practices you will have time to go over several defensive options; go over at least 6 plus a sweeper and 7 up with the 2 end players rotating; it will be helpful if you are capable of both.

7:10-7:30 Play a series of games incorporating the swivel line and one defense you intend to use.

If you're going to use a sweeper, play with unequal numbers, e.g. 4 on 3, 5 on 4, etc.., to work on the slide defense. If you're not going to use a sweeper, play with equal numbers. You may want to play the "no turnover" game described in Chapter C1.

7:30-7:50 Short kick-offs. Perhaps preceded by a discourse on the importance of the kickoff. Work on short kickoff variations: high in the air near the touchline, for a big forward to cover and gain possession, or along the ground to an unmarked spot for either the kicker or a teammate to recover and put in play.

With 14 players, a 7 on 7 game can be played to a breakdown or score after each kick-off. With fewer, you can simply play 4 on 4, the four receivers being stationed near the 10-m line.

7:50-8:10 Long kick-offs. To start, kick long to a corner and try to isolate the defender in a corner, away from support. Receivers will try to counterattack (if the kicking team has no sweeper, that may take the form of a long kick).

Play to a breakdown (or a try at the half-way line for the receiving team). If you kick into the in-goal, have the receiving team run the ball out, and save drop-outs for a future practice.

8:10-8:30 Games. With 14, you might play a game of 7 on 7, and allow kicking to test the defense against the kick. With fewer people, play any game that emphasizes (a) a direct attack to score, and (b) swivelling if the attack is broken off. During these games, you might also begin to emphasize a point that you can't emphasize enough: all support players should always be working to be behind the ball carrier at all times: failure to do this is a big reason a lot of overlaps go begging in sevens.

Force communication. Don't let the players get away without constantly talking to each other.

Practice #2:

Topics: Review / Open-Field Kicking / Scrummaging

6:00-6:15 Light Jog and Stretch

6:15-6:25 Handling drills of your choice

6:25-6:35 Game. Cross-field 2 on 1. Described in an Chapter C1. Break into groups of threes, with one defender (preferably the fastest of the three) trying to stop the others from scoring a 75-yard try. Start with a field width of 25 yards wide. If the attackers find this too easy, narrow the field correspondingly.

6:35-6:55 Unopposed open-field play (e.g. swivel and variations). Include situations where the ball carrier either runs into, or is tackled by, a defender. Options are discussed in Chapter C1.

6:55-7:30 Split backs and forwards. (As in 15s, scrum halves must be shared). Practice scrummaging with the forwards: defensive options such as driving, wheeling, kicking through, etc..., discussed earlier -- or of your own creation -- should be covered, as should every player's assignment after the ball is won (or lost). Cover as separate topics "our ball," "their ball."

Meanwhile the backs can be practicing ploys from scrums. (If only 7 players are present, the backs will have to help the forwards with their scrummaging, and the forwards can help the backs by providing opposition for their moves).

Finally, the two units can come together and practice ploys from the set scrum that involve both the forwards and the backs.

7:30-7:50 Open-field kicking. Decide at which situations you want to encourage kicking, and work on these now. You may want to start off with a small unit drill emphasizing kicking; with 14 players, you could play 7 on 7 and create situations from which you'd kick.

7:50-8:30 Games. With 14 people, regular games of sevens (either full tackle or just "stand-up tackles"), with all breakdowns being followed by scrums, and all tries by kickoffs. Kicking and defense vs.. kicking should be encouraged.

With fewer people, be imaginative: with 10, for example, one-player scrums can be used, and the backs can still run plays (this is best done cross-field, between the goal and the half-way line); kick-offs can be restricted to short kicks, with the four defenders up at the 10-yards line.

Make sure all directions emphasized to-date are being followed. At a breakdown where the ball is not coming out, emphasize the importance of it being our scrum at the whistle, and driving it forward.

Force communication. Don't let the players get away without constantly talking to each other.

Note that we're trying to emphasize, in each practice, the things we've worked on at that practice. Thus we finish off emphasizing scrums and kicking (it's not just coincidental that these two are practiced together; since it's difficult to get a player in sweeping position immediately after a set scrum, kicking can often be beneficial from a scrum. Furthermore, the two on one situation we practiced at the beginning of practice can often be created from plays such as the hit play from a set scrum; we need to be able to convert it.

Practice #3:

Topics: Review / Lineouts / Dropouts

6:00-6:15 Light Jog and Stretch

6:15-6:25 Handling drills of your choice

6:25-6:40 Games. 3 on 3 "no turnover." Described in Chapter C1.

6:40-7:00 Unopposed open-field play. At some point during the drill, force the team to swivel backwards as described in the previous chapter, then work on getting them going forward again.

7:00-7:15 Kick-offs. Practice as in session 1, but hopefully both sides will have become more proficient and will begin to develop strategies for kicking off and for attacking from the kickoff on their own. Watch them: their improvisation of today may become your coaching point of the future.

7:15-7:35 Line-outs. Decide which options you are going to use and work on them. You may spend the first 10 minutes with the backs working on plays from lineouts while the forwards work on their throw-ins, but spend a good 10 minutes as seven together.

7:35-7:50 Drop-outs. Practice always getting the ball back to the 22 more quickly than the opponents can organize, and work on all the options you choose to give the players. Try to have several players capable of executing the quick drop out.

Discuss your options when the other team drops out.

7:50-8:00 Deep support drill. Described in chapter C1, this drill simulates the situation where one player, supporting the ball but many yards away, calls for the ball carrier to "heave it" in the general direction of the call. Explain the assumptions behind this drill and make sure the players understand.

8:00-8:30 Games. Now you can play as above, but specify a line-out at every breakdown. Make sure you have the attackers kick the ball into goal a couple of times and observe the ensuing drop-outs, emphasizing the appropriate coaching points.

Practice #4:

Topics: Review / Penalty Plays

6:00-6:15 Light Jog and Stretch

6:15-6:25 Handling drills of your choice

6:25-6:50 Unopposed open-field play. As above, but -- after you've covered the necessary topics -- let the players start taking the game into their own hands, and run unopposed the length of the field with minimum interference from the coach (by now they should have a grasp of what you want them to do). Make sure, however, that they include all the situations that might confront them (make a checklist beforehand).

6:50-7:10 Kick-offs; as before. You've already taught the basics, now work on improving their execution.

7:10-7:30 Set scrums; as before.

7:30-7:50 Line-outs; as before.

7:50-8:10 Penalty plays. Make sure you have at least one or two that you can do well and confidently. Make sure that if the play doesn't work, you can still retain possession.

8:10-8:30 Two 10-minute periods; full game conditions (again, with less than 14 players, use your imagination, but DO have competition).

Practice #5:

Topics: Review / Break into Squads / Competition

6:00-6:15 Light Jog and Stretch

6:15-6:25 Handling drills of your choice

6:25-7:00 Unopposed open-field play. You can start out imagining the team has won a kickoff, and attack from it, going through several lengths of the field in which the swivel and its variations are intermingled with set scrums, lineouts, penalty plays, etc.., and imagined developments from each. Include mauling and driving situations where appropriate.

Let the players be in control as much as possible; they'll have to do it in the game.

7:00-7:10 Break into two squads; have them each spend a few minutes going through line-out signals, penalty plays, etc..., in preparation for a series of games with the opposition.

Games of 7 vs.. 7:

7:10-7:20 One kickoff after another and play to breakdown.

7:20-7:30 One scrum after another and play to breakdown.

7:30-7:40 One lineout after another and play to breakdown.

7:50-8:00 One penalty play after another and play to breakdown.

8:00-8:30 Three 10-minute periods: be creative in rules modifications to suit your purpose. One of my favorites, described in the previous chapter, is not allowing a team to score until it's made 20 passes.

8:30-8:40 Run. Presumably this is the week of the tournament; a little "overload" in terms of fitness work might be handy (as it might have the week before).


Practice #6:

Topics: Review / Consolidation

If you're entering more than one team, you may want to keep each tournament squad together for this practice.

6:00-6:15 Light Jog and Stretch

6:15-6:25 Handling drills of your choice

6:25-6:50 Unopposed open-field play, as above.

6:50-7:10 Kickoffs, as above, but with less emphasis on competition and more on communication within each squad.

7:10-8:00 Other set pieces: Ditto with set scrums, lineouts, penalty plays, drop-outs, etc...

8:00-8:30 Game. Play 4 5-minute periods of straight sevens, with a couple of minutes between them to discuss mistakes, etc..., and how to improve in the next period: remember, this is your last coaching opportunity.

8:30-8:40 If this is the Wednesday night practice before the tournament, you might want to run them; if it's Thursday, it's time to relax.

Coaching Notes:

East RU practice for National All-Star Championship, 11/88

The most important domestic select-side sevens' competition in the US is the National All-Star Championship (also know as the ITT 7s [Interterritorial Tournament -- sevens]), held annually and at which two squads of nine players represent each of the four territories; competition is for both team and individual honors, as the event is the penultimate step in the selection of the Eagle sevens team.

Each territory is allowed a squad of 18 players, and while two separate squads (A and B) are fielded, there is some minor exchange of players allowed between the territory's two sides.

As coach of the East since the inception of the ITT 7s, I have always required that the players arrive on the Wednesday evening preceding the event, and take part in two days of practice. The team has been successful, and I credit the two-day practice approach for part of this success.

The following is a virtually intact copy of my notes for the two days of practice prior to the ITTs in Tucson on November 5, 1988, which was won by the East.

East Practice Schedule, Tucson 11/3-4/88

Thursday, AM

8:30-9:30 TEAM TALK

My notes for pre-practice talks were 7 pages long, and covered our goals, our style, and an outline of our practice schedule. We reviewed the concepts we'd be working on at each session, and there was a chalkboard session prior to each practice as well.


Thursday Morning Practice: 10AM--12:30 PM

10:00-10:15 HANDLING DRILLS:

Groups of 4, 4, 5, 5 to ball

  • long passes
  • 3rd player as opposition
  • football pass options
  • make all passes be switches (+ dummy switches)

3 to ball; deep support drill

10:15-10:30 GRUB KICKOFFS:

6 players kickoff to 3 sets of 4: devise signals

o work on proper kicking technique

o at center, kick to self with support

o grub to right and left holes,

o work on talk and depth of support and retention of possession


3 with ball; 2 defenders each group (e.g. 3,3,3,3 on 2,2,2):

For all drills: don't let supporters MOVE till after contact, ball carriers struggle to retain possession then pass

o big player with ball: drive (work on all fending off options)

o big players on knees as defenders (grab one leg only);

o have defender kill ball, 2nd attacker secure ball, 3rd player take ball bursting through gap

o have 2nd defender kill ball, 2nd and 3rd attackers drive to ensure it will be our scrum at whistle

10:45-11:00 DROPOUTS

A. Drop-out to self without support behind

o show technique; break into groups of 3, each with a "coach" to show and improve technique

B. Drop-out to self with support behind

o show technique; work in 3s as above

o do with 3 vs... 3

C. Put together in 7 vs.. 7

o start from scrum, attackers put ball in-goal

o look upfield for lack of deep coverage

o kick to self

o other options

e.g. kick to forward(s)

kick behind receivers

long kick towards touchline (discuss chasers)


o 2 on 1 cross-field: start in 30-yard wide area; go to 20-yard wide area; end in 10-yard wide area.

o 3 on 3 "no turnovers" (grab tackle)

assign 6 teams beforehand


o Swivel and Options

(start with 3 forwards at one side of field

as if from scrum or lineout)

(work to get H and W at ends, Ps in center of field)

o Variations (7 v 2 each group):

Length 1: swivel--whistle, ball between legs

Length 2: ditto, plus following: miss if bunched; go deep before going across; give advanced options to players

Length 3: swivel backwards--

o crash (big player takes someone on)

o clear (fast player runs across field)

Length 4: drive

Length 5: maul, pocket, etc... "Help!" call: "Bring it!"

Length 6: get our put it at scrum (use 2 sets 5 on 5) "Driving!"

Length 7: all combinations on own; work on switches, double change of directions, etc...

After a break has been made:

Length 8: break: take defender on, put someone through (DRIVE!)

Length 9: break: stop & go! (STOP! COMING!)

Length 10: stop and re-swivel (STOP! BACK!)

Length 11: ditto, plus football pass

Length 12: break, deep support option (supporter must be alone!)

11:40-12:00 KICKOFFS (cont..)


o. High to Props: work on positioning

o. Hide Wing, kick to wing

o. Long kicks a) for pressure, b) for drop out


o Start with 4-players up

o Try 5-players up, have kickers try to beat this formation

o Try to counter long kick in play

12:00-12:30 GAMES

Start with KO, 2-hand touch plus two steps, play to breakdown (kicking allowed) (3x 5min)

Talk about sweeping on KO

End with game of 20-passes (2 or 3 x 5min)

12:30 END

Thursday, PM

2:00-2:30 TALK


Thursday Afternoon Practice: 3:00 PM -- 5:15 PM



Forwards, 3:20-4:05

3:20-3:50: Set scrummaging

1. Our ball:

Body positioning:

Overbind AND underbind

Options if Prop on Prop binding not allowed

LH options to Counteract TH

Put in:

Shallow and deep strike

If we are wheeled

Duties of Fwds after ball won

2. Their ball

Body positioning

Overbind AND underbind (latter unless can drive)

Drive / wheel / strike / pull-through

SH, H at put in

Duties of Fwds after ball won

3:50-4:05: Lineouts

1. Our ball--

Concentrate on ball at 1

Ball at 1

High: front and back

Low: shoelace; hike; Korea

Ball at 2 -- front, back, peel

2. Their ball: zone

1 - 3 -


Backs, 3:20-4:05

3:20-3:50: Plays from set scrums

(keep one SH and H)

FH positioning



Lineup on player, then play zone

Backs out one way: W somewhat deep

Backs split: ?Use sweeper?

Use of hooker and SH to help backs on D: have options of coming in at FH and sliding, or, if FH committed, move out and call insertion spot!

(Note that inside Prop must move in; outside spot at fwds may be unguarded; 2 spots once SH or H moves deep, and at that time must pull bring extra player back)


1. Hit 65 + Dummy Hit 65 3 In

2. Miss 6, Hit 76

3. XX675

4. 45DS

5. 63 Crash

6. Split 7 (note options depending on how they mark us)

7. Off FH stacked, blind side options

8. " , Scrum at left, Strike 5

9. Kicks

(Defense for each)

(Note: spend more time talking about general issues rather than just plays)

3:50-4:05 Plays from lineouts:

2 In / 2 Out / 2 In Late / 2 Out Late / Miss 6, 2 Out Late 2 XIn, XOut, 2 Out, P In

Hit, XX, etc...

Football pass back to hooker


Together, 4:05-4:55

4:05-4:20 Plays from set pieces

Together unopposed & semi-opposed with above plays, etc... work to get H and W at opposite sides of the field

4:20-4:35 2 5-min. games

all from set scrums

4:40-4:55 2 5-min. games

all from lineouts


Double Switch and Variations

Double Post and Variations


5:15 END

Friday, AM

9:00-10:15 TALK

Review yesterday's strengths and weaknesses and discuss plans for today


Announce 6 teams: Red 1,2,3; White 1,2,3

Friday Morning Practice: 11AM--1 PM

Break into four half-hour segments:

First half hour: kickoffs + Game (Red 1 vs.. White 1)

Second half hour: set scrums + Game (Red 2 vs.. White 2)

Third half hour: lineouts + Game (Red 3 vs.. White 3)

Fourth half hour: Penalty plays and dropouts (R v W)

(Work all nine players of each squad into each game)

Each half hour:

10 minutes: George and Emil each prepare one team

10 minutes: game concentrating on set piece specified

10 minutes: review + water break

11:00 END

Coaching Notes:

Eagles Preliminary Practices for 1988 Hong Kong/Sydney 7s

As opposed to coaching a territorial squad of 18 players, the Eagle training must be conducted with a squad of 9 or 10, a more difficult task.

Traditionally, the Eagles gather in San Francisco for a weekend's practice prior to leaving for Hong Kong.

The following is summarized from my notes for our Saturday practices. 4/19/20.

As there is lots of repetition from previous examples in this chapter, I have copied in brief summary form only; you'll be able to see, however, the modifications of the practice schedule to handle competition for a smaller number of people.

We practiced on Saturday (morning and afternoon), scrimmaged Cal/Berkeley, BATS, and the Old Blues on Sunday, flew to Hong Kong on Monday morning, arriving Tuesday night, courtesy of the International Date Line.

We practiced twice on Wednesday (no notes remain, but by now you get the idea), scrimmaged Tonga on Thursday (lost, 6 tries to 3), and had a 45-minute "walk-through" on Friday with the two sevens that were to play against Thailand and the Irish Wolfhounds.

On the weekend, we won the Plate Championship.

Eagles' Practice, 3/19/90

AM Practice: 2.5 hours

Cum. time, min.

Stretch: 15 minutes

Handling Drills in 4s: 10 minutes 25

3, 3 on 1 on 1 on 1 on 1: 10 minutes 35

Teams 1-4: Unopposed open field play: 20 minutes 55

3 v 3 grab-tackle (Turn-over games): 15 minutes 70

3 v 2: a) tag, b) grab: 10 minutes 80

5 v 4: slide D (no kicking): 10 minutes 90

5 v 5: across field: 10 minutes 100

Water: 5 minutes 105

Kickoffs: Long: 15 minutes 120

Short: 25 minutes 145

Drop-Outs: 10 minutes 155

PM Practice: 2.5 hours

Stretch: 15 minutes

8 lengths of field (unopposed; 2 ea team): 10 m 25

Split: Fwds & SH--Scrummaging

Backs--Plays from Scrums: 15 min. 40

Together: Plays from Scrums (20 min.) 60

Competition: ea team v. Opponents (5 poss) (15) 75

Split: Fwds & SH/H--Line-Outs

Backs--Plays from LO: 10-min 85

Together: Plays from LOs (15 min.) 100

Competition: ea team v. Opponents (5 poss) (15) 115

Water (5 min) 120

Penalty Plays (20 min) 140

Competition: a) 20-passes (T1 & 2, 5 min. ea) 150

b) Reg (T3 & 4, 5 min ea) 160

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