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Support is a hugely important role in the game. To be effective the attacking players must work extremely hard “off the ball”.

The attack is continued by supporting team mates who position themselves with depth and width in order to:

  • provide options to the ball-carrier;
  • communicate options;
  • utilise space;
  • provide continuity.

Although Sevens may look like a game that has very little structure due to the restricted numbers – it is important that team patterns of play are established to ensure support is present for off loads, rucks, and completion of line breaks.

Attack patterns are important to find space for penetrators and assist in setting up mismatches on the field. In Sevens there is so much more space with often six defending players covering a 70m wide field. Down the field there are only two lines of defenders to defend up to 100m of field.

When a ball-carrier attracts the defence it creates space elsewhere across the field that should then be used for the attack. The supporting players must be in this space and aware of the ball- carrier’s options so they can be proactive in providing options for the ball carrier.

The attack alignment should be lateral and deep enough so that the attackers can react to the pass or the kick by the ball-carrier. Once the ball has been gathered the player can create more space with an immediate pass away from the congested area.

Players aligning in wide lanes across the field also assists support options as this enables each attacker to isolate a defender. Before they receive the ball they can use distractions to occupy a defender by changing running lines, feinting, and by communicating openly with team mates.

Depending on the behaviour of the defence the support player may become the ball-carrier or continue to be a decoy.

As the ball-carrier, the player may have out maneuvered the defence prior to receiving the ball, so that penetration can occur. If the defence continues to mark the support player, the player’s role would be that of a decoy and the pass could be made to another support player further along the line.

Once a player’s primary task as the ball-carrier has been completed, the player should assume a supporting role taking up a position in depth in their lane. This will keep the defence spread.

The exception may be a player who assists the ball-carrier retain the ball in contact and distribute to the players in space. It is important that the closest support player to the tackled player supports in the contact zone. If a player over commits and no support is immediate, the ball may be lost and the opposing team has space in which to attack.

An accurate profile of the strengths and weaknesses of your team should be taken into consideration when deciding on which attack patterns could be best implemented by your team. Another factor to be taken into consideration is the fact that Sevens is played in tournament format. Tactically you may need to modify patterns depending on the strengths and weaknesses of the variety of opposition you may encounter at a tournament although focusing on what you do best is the first criteria.

Related Attack Principles Drills