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Principle One – Gaining Possession

Kick-offs - The Kicking Team:

Note 1:

Be aware that the kick-off is the most frequent set piece and is worth putting time into ensuring accuracy.

Note 2:

It is important that a team has an accurate drop kicker, maybe two, for kick-offs, conversions and penalty kicks at goal in “tight” situations.


From a contestable kick –off the kicking team’s outcome is to retain possession.

You may recall that the law was changed to prevent the try scoring team from receiving the kick off because this enabled them to monopolize possession and continually be in a position to score further tries.

The Law change has led to the superior kick-off being a kick to retain possession.


There are three options that can lead to the kicking team retaining possession.

The first is to ensure the ball is in the air long enough and goes just over the 10metre line enabling the chasers to contest the ball.

The second is to use a grubber kick that is kicked slowly and just gets over the 10metre line so the ball can be contested.

Thirdly a long kick to space that goes indirectly into touch. Even though the receiving team will throw the ball into the line-out the ball is contestable.

Another option is to make a shallow kick to an opposing player, so the ball is coming from directly overhead and the receiving catcher is not in a position to run and leap to catch the ball. This is a miss-match as the chaser will be able to leap to contest and catch the ball.

Key to retaining the ball from a kick towards the touchline is a chasing line from the touchline enabling the jumper to run towards the ball, leap and, by turning back-on to the opposition is able to either catch the ball or tap it back, not forward, to a supporting player.

Support in this general play situation should be behind and in front of the ball to gather deflections when the ball is not caught as there is no offside line.

Once the ball has been retained the ball carrier should go directly forward so that all players can be behind and in a supporting position. By going directly forward the catcher will enable support to play down the channel from which they can either score or draw the defence across to the channel creating space across the field. By doing this the defence has been drawn from space the attack can now pass the ball to and go forward and score.

A ruck or maul may be needed to create offside lines to push the defence back giving space to attack.

Non-contestable kick offs


It is important that a team has an accurate drop kicker, maybe two, for kick-offs, conversions and penalty kicks at goal in “tight” situations.

Outcome - Kick to force the receiving teams into options that will result in the kicking team regaining possession.


Explanation: (This is the same as those for the defence line in most situations):

Send an aligned chase line of 5-6 players to prevent the opposition from penetrating using an overlap.

The remaining 1-2 players are sweepers to cover the opposition’s kick option.

Take advantage of the opposition feeling that the goal line is a wall aligning with too little depth. This will prevent them from running onto their passes. They may even receive the ball standing still enabling the chasing team to take away time and space, make a tackle and regain possession to score.

Key to all this is the alignment of the defence, which is a flat arrowhead the point of which is the player aligned to the opposition ball carrier.

Each defender should Identify who is tackling who and defend inside out, not square on to the ball carrier, so the ball carrier has only one running option.

As the ball is passed along the attacking line each defender who is aligned with each new ball carrier becomes the point of the arrow and those whose attacker has passed the ball reload so that they can move into the tackle if play comes into their lane.

If a ruck or maul is formed and a defender doesn’t reload by about 2-3 metres behind the gain line the defender will have to remain stationary so as not to get offside allowing the attack to have the momentum as they go forward to receive and run with the ball.

Should the receiving team kick the ball the sweepers can counter attack taking the ball directly forward. The players ahead must reload quickly to get all six players in depth behind the ball carrier in a position to offer a passing option.

If this doesn’t occur the ball carrier may have to return the kick or seek contact forming a ruck or maul to create space with the risk of turning the ball over or, at least, slowing the attack.


Outcome: To retain possession so that all attacking options are available.


Given that there are few lineouts in a seven’s game practice a small number of options that are going to be reliable.

The key is to throw the ball to an unmarked player by outmanoeuvring the opposition on the ground within the 5 and 15metre lines. Feinting forward and going back or feinting back and going forward are obvious options.

Manoeuvring can enable the team to use an unassisted jumper or a throw to a player standing on the ground. This is usually at the front or back of the lineout where the catcher can catch the ball over the 15metre line. This is all based on having an alert thrower who should make the call.

Make sure the throw is down the middle line to avoid a turnover.

If the catcher uses lifters, they should stabilize the jumper at the top of the jump to catch the ball. Don’t jump up and come down immediately. Achieve stability by the lifters starting from a strong squat position, using their whole body from the legs to the hands, in order, and locking out at the elbows as the final step.

Using one lifter takes more practice while two lifters use more players than you may want to if you are going to mount an immediate attack by going forward from the lineout.


Outcome: To retain possession so that all attacking options are available.

As with lineouts there are few scrums in a game and time should be allocated accordingly.


Prior to engagement the prop should bind under and the props over so the hooker can release quickly and join the attack once the ball has been won.

To give them stability forward and back as well as left and right the left and right the props should have the outside foot just ahead of the inside foot.

Following the ref’s call, they should bind as far down the opponent’s body while still keeping the hips and shoulders square.

On the throw-in the players drive forward by driving their knees down which will move their shoulders forward. Maintain stability by locking up in this position.

The difficulty of a three-player scrum is winning controlled ball when the ball is immediately hooked behind the hindmost foot. This is especially the case when the defensive scrum pushes and doesn’t strike for the ball, so the pushing contest is 3 vs 2.

To overcome this when the team is throwing the ball in, the hooker may strike the ball so gently it can be trapped against the prop’s inside leg. This gives some control.

The other option is to put the ball in slowly and just push past the ball without hooking.

Further control can be obtained by the halfback putting the ball in on the scrums blind-side even if it is the tight-head side of the scrum. By doing this the player can move towards the ball while at the same time having the receiver of the pass in the same line of vision. So, on the right side of the field they would throw the ball in from the right and from the left side, from the left.

The problem area is when the ball is struck hard and ends up rolling some distance backwards. As the halfback moves to recover it the opposition halfback will be right behind. This will enable the defending halfback to tackle the halfback immediately the ball is touched.

The passing option is the dive pass.

In addition, the first receiver may stand directly behind the scrum to pick up the ball. When this occurs, the halfback is taken out of play along with the forwards in the scrum leaving the attack with the fly half with the ball and the remaining two players behind but away from the ball. The defence has seven players who are able to move forward in formation to close down the attack.

A controlled hook is the best option.