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Sevens: A Coach’s Perspective

Sevens: A Coach’s Perspective

A coach’s perspective of Sevens Rugby.

Jon Skurr

Playing career (Sevens)
Samurai International (2000-2007)
Bradford Bulls Middlesex Sevens Champions (2002)
Irish Exiles (2004-2008)

Irish Exiles player-coach (2005-2007)
Ireland Sevens head coach (2007-2009)
– Fourth at the European Championship
– Bowl finalists at Rugby Sevens World Cup (2009)

1. What are the key principles of 7-a-side rugby?

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Sevens rugby is fast, explosive and powerful! It’s a game that is played by adaptable, intelligent rugby players who have the ability to make key decisions in different situations.

The game focuses on the key core skills and puts them under greater pressure than 15 a-side game. You need to play with width, but modern Sevens is not just about throwing the ball about – it’s about structure and shape.

2. What are the most important qualities for a Sevens coach to have?

You need to be organised, adaptable and have good communication skills. Player management is important, players will often be prepared to push themselves to the limits. As coaches, it is important you know your players and realise what they are capable of achieving.

It is also important as a coach that you empower players to make decisions. In sevens, players’ individual decisions can have a greater impact on the outcome of the game.

3. Sum up the key differences between coaching Sevens and 15-a-side rugby.

There is such an importance on individual core skills in Sevens that you have to break down drills to focus on the key elements of the skill and then you need to make them specific to Sevens rugby. One other key difference is that you’re working with a smaller group of players – this allows you to identify strengths and weaknesses easier than in a 15-a-side and tailor sessions to meet the needs of the players.

There are also the obvious differences such as scrums, lineouts, backs moves and defensive systems and these are also very important.

4. What challenges do coaches face when coaching Sevens?

One of the key challenges facing coaches when coaching Sevens is changing one’s mentality from being a 15-a-side coach. Many of the key principles are the same, they just need a Sevens specific focus. The only way to learn about Sevens is to play Sevens!

The Sevens game itself has changed significantly over the last ten years and has moved closer to 15-a-side rugby with more shape, structure and contact than ever before. The key challenge for a coach is to give players the opportunity to transfer skills successfully from 15-a-side rugby to Sevens.

5. Are there any rugby aspects which translate very well from 15-a-side to Sevens?

All the cores skills such as passing, tackling and breakdown skills translate really well. Players are under greater pressure to perform these skills correctly, otherwise possession could be lost and you might not get the ball back for some time!

Sevens players are under a microscope because any mistake is highlighted by the fact that there are so few players on the pitch.

6. What advice would you give to coaches who may be quite new to coaching Sevens?

Start with the basics, look at players’ ball skills such as passing the ball over longer distances than players would normally do in a full-sided game. I would also focus on defence, if you don’t concede tries you don’t lose games!

Try to think about the key core skills and then make them specific to Sevens. Many new coaches spend lots of time on set piece plays, don’t! Most Sevens games have very few scrums or lineouts. It’s more important to look at retaining the ball and defensive shape.

7. Are there any benefits to the 15-a-side game that coaches may bring back from their involvement in Sevens rugby?

There is no hiding place in Sevens and it forces coaches to be more thoughtful and adaptable in their delivery. Coaches have to think about specific focuses and how they can adapt them to different situations.

Sevens coaches have to break games down into smaller detail than 15-a-side rugby as individual errors can have a greater impact on the outcome of the game.