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Principles of Defence

The principles of defence are also the same for fifteens and sevens.

Principle One - Contest Possession:


Contest possession to force a “lesser” option on the attack and to eventually regain possession of the ball and to apply pressure by going forward in attack.

Receiving Kick Offs:

Although this team is in defence initially possession can change hands very quickly.

Contestable Kick-offs - Winning the contest

Key Factors:

The team should cover all options by being in a position to move into the ball. This will give the jumper momentum that cannot be achieved by standing directly under the ball.

There is of course the option of using a lifter for the “jumper/ lifter” mini unit as in the lineout. This takes some practice. It applies generally to shallow kick-offs or the one most commonly used by the kicking team, as playing numbers will prevent all options being contested.

If the kick is contestable and the lifter-jumper unit is being challenged they can be used as a decoy and the catcher can be a player standing behind.

Non-Contestable Ball and Attack Options

When a long kick is made watch to see how many there are in the chasing line and its formation to decide on either run/pass or kicking options.

By reloading the receiving team should aim to get all players in support behind the line of the ball carrier and across the field.

This gives two run/pass options:

  1. If the chase line is spread in an arrowhead formation attack at a miss-match down a channel – linear support.
  2. If there are fewer in number and they are compressed exploit the overlap – lateral support.

As mentioned above the goal-line can seem like a brick wall and the attack line can be very flat, so flat that the players are unable to run onto their passes. Some teams align into the in-goal, which is risky.

The best option is to have a runner coming from depth to take the ball forward so that as many players as possible can move into play. This role would be for the sweeper.

The kick options are to kick to touch as far down the field as possible or to kick and chase. Observe where the sweeper(s) is and adjust the options accordingly by kicking to space or to recover.

Unlike fifteens kick-offs, kick-offs in sevens are the most numerous set pieces and should be given a lot of attention.


Assess whether it is worth contesting the ball in the air by jumping. If the team has done their homework and/or it has a height advantage this may be worthwhile. Just bear in mind that there are few lineouts and this time may be better spent practicing other options while limiting options at the lineout.

Out of personal preference you may be better to concede possession but, in doing so:

  1. Prevent the opposing lineout going forward.
  2. Have the 3 forwards and the scrum half shuffle to the 15m line and, as soon as the lineout is over, use your positioning on the gain line to trigger a rush defence which should include the 2 defensive backs. The hooker becomes a defensive sweeper. This can isolate the attacking backs, as defenders are greater than attackers and a turnover is likely.


A superior scrum should push the opposition off the ball, but the same ball control is needed as when a team wins its own ball. So, the defensive scrum must know the attack’s strategy and play to it so that they are not at a disadvantage.

Should they win the ball they can then go into attack mode as described above.

It may be best to hold your ground and be alert to the attack breaking quickly and going forward as a group of 4 to put the attack under pressure.

It is difficult for the ref to judge a number of illegal ploys such as wheeling and pulling back, so the ball ends up in a poor position behind the attacking team’s scrum.