Seven-a-side Rugby : Fewer Rucks, fewer Mauls, more Rugby!
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Introduction Outcome Goals: Attack - Defense - Performance Goals: Attack - Defense - Frequent Errors - Team Selection - Conclusion

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Creating Space

The defender has been committed and the pass made to a teammate in a better position that the passer.

Cameron Pither (Australia) vs China. Brisbane 7s, First Round. Australia defeated China 57-0.

  1. Gaining possession
  2. As in all rugby, gaining possession of the ball and keeping it are the primary objectives of the team. Consequently, scrums, lineouts and kick-offs are of major concern, however, in Sevens these are less numerous.

    Because of the large number of points that can be scored, priority should be given to kick-offs. Secondly, because of minor infringements the next priority should be given to scrums and last of all to lineouts, because teams usually avoid putting the ball into touch. How possession is to be won at these set pieces will be covered in the section on Performance Goals.

  3. Retaining possession
  4. Players must be able to retain possession of the ball even when they are under pressure. In doing this they may be stationary or even moving backwards. Once a player is on the ground the ball must be released. Consequently, fundamental to ball retention is the ball carrier's ability to be physically strong enough to spread their base and lower their centre of gravity in contact, to prevent going to the ground.

    The player must have the skill of making the ball available to a supporting team mate by turning either side on or back on to opponents, and holding the ball so a team mate can drive in to secure possession.

    The support player should drive in with the shoulder just above the ball. To ensure the player is able to drive forward the ball carrier should hold the ball at about waist height. The support player should not only secure the ball and drive forward, but should also bind with one arm onto the ball carrier to increase stability. In this way, the ball carrier is kept up so that the ball does not have to be played immediately, as it would in a tackle.

    Once the ball has been secured, the support player should pass quickly to another player in space, so that the attack may regain its composure and formation to remount the attack. If the ball carrier goes to ground the immediate action must be to roll or pass the ball back from the tackle, to once again gain space to remount the attack.

    The aim must be to get the ball away from the congestion surrounding the tackle. Players driven sideways in the tackle must go to ground immediately to re-establish stability lost by the impact of the tackle.

    In all cases, players must encleavour to go into a tackle on their own terms. This requires anticipation of when and how contact will occur, so thalt players know immediately how they will react and do this before possession can become contested.

  5. Creating space
  6. Space exists in two directions, it may be lateral space across the field or linear space down the field.

  7. Lateral space
  8. Lateral space across the field can be created by the positioning of team-mates on attack.

    Of course, possession is best retained by avoiding contact altogether. The movement of the ball to a player in space who eventually penetrates is the ideal, as all players will remain in the match as receiving options.

    When the ball is in a congested area, it should be moved to space immediately. To offer options players must not bunch together, but must spread out across the field. The ball is best moved to space by passing, however, in the context of the match this may not be available. Alternatives are to roll or kick the ball back to a team-mate.

    The exception to this is when play is close to the goal line. Here the player recovering the ball should make as much space ahead as possible, while still being conscious that the use of support to retain is a close second priority. By going forward, space is created whereby attackers can align to move forward to receive the pass and the teams alignment can force the defence to concede some space.

    As the defenders must be committed to defend each individual attacker, they will have to spread across the full width of the field. This will create space between each individual defender through whom the attack can penetrate.

    - See Diagram (1) Lateral space - Situation I

    This may occur when an attacker is able to isolate the defender and, using superior skills, beat the defender through the space on left or right.

    Secondly, a playerfrom elsewhere in theformation may enterthe space between two attackers. As both the ball carrier and the player to whom a pass can be made, both have to be defended, the extra player entering the space between these two, may be able to penetrate before the defence has been able to adjust.

    - See Diagram (1) Lateral space * Situation 2

    In any formation the players must stand far enough from each other to prevent the defender defending more than one attacker. This is assisted by the lines of running of the attack. The line of moving would initially be directly towards the designated defender holding the player. if the defender moves away to assist, elsewhere the ball carrier will penetrate. However, the players may stand a little closer so as not to occupy the full width of the field. This will create space beyond the last player in the formation. In this case, it is space on the outside that is exploited rather than that between two defenders.

    See Diagram (2) Lateral space - Situation 3

    A player moving into this space has considerable room and may be fast enough to score. When this is not the case, the player should create a delay until support arrives and run lines to create space for supporting players.

    To do this, the player should alter running lines to draw the defence away from the support. If the player moves left, space is created to the right and if the player moves right, space is created left.

    This can best beachieved bythe playerrunning infield asthey run downthefield, creating space on their outside, further from the defence. This also enables a comfortable pass to be made to support players running into the space.

    The other option is to move away from both support and the defence, by veering towards the touchline. If the player can beat the defence on the outside, this is fine, but if this cannot be achieved there are two difficulties. The first is that it is difficult to pass into the space and the second is that the defence will have been drawn into the space by the movement of the ball carrier.

  9. Linear space
  10. Linear space is the space between the two teams. From scrums, lineouts, rucks and mauls this is the distance between the offside line and the alignment of the backline.

    See Diagram (3) - Linear space - Situation I

    Creating space by setting up rucks and mauls is often not an option in Sevens. This is because the players wish to avoid contact to retain the ball. And secondly, because there are fewer players, contact situations do not necessarily constitute a ruck or maul by definition.

    This means, that while there is space during these aspects of play, this occurs less frequently than in 15-a-side, because relatively few of them take place. So in Sevens the offside Laws are more often those that apply to General Play. These apply mainly to the attacking team, in that an attacking player is offside if that player in playing the ball, is ahead of the last player in his/her team to do so.

    Consequently, linear space is created in Sevens only by the attacking team's ability to exploit faults in the defence.

    If the attack has the ability to exploit a loss in the alignment of the defence they will create space. Most frequently this is created by a defensive player moving ahead of team-mates in the line.

    See Diagram (3) Linear space Situation 2

    if the attack is unable to pose a threat, they will attack with less and less space as the defence is not impeded by an offside line and no space is created for the attack.

    This is why teams attempt to create space by moving away from the defence towards their own goal line. Ultimately, they will have to go forward. To do this from a position in which they are backing-up is difficult and has to be practiced.

    Attacking players must be aware that when they go into contact, defending players may enter play from any direction. Be aware, however, that an experimental Law Variation has been implemented by the IRB in late January 2000, which will ensure players enter from their side of the ball at the tackle. This will create space and time for the attacking team.

    The linear space between the teams can be too great also. This is because, while it gives the attack time to attack, it also gives the defence time to defend. it must be recognised that a high skill level allows players to attack when little space is available. The less this space, while still achieving the objective, the less time there is available for the defence to react.

    While there is linear space between the attack and the defence, players should be aware that there is space behind the defence also. When the space is used by kicking into it, it may have an immediate effect if possession is regained. But even if it does not, there is the threat that the kick may be used again, to prevent the defence from over-committing to moving forward to make the tackle.

  11. Penetrating using the space
  12. Space creates time to mount an attack. However, the attack will only be successful, if the attack aligns on the defence, keeping them spread across the field. Secondly, success will be enhanced by the depth to which the attackers stand relative to each other.

    The depth should be sufficient to give the player time to choose options whether they be run, pass or kick.

    Once the initial line of defense is broken, pace ensures the try is scored.

    André Joubert (South Africa) vs Australia.

    The space can be lessened to reduce the reaction time of the defence, by moving forward to receive the ball. As the ball carrier moves forward, the defence is threatened and will be held until the ball is passed.

    This may be quite close to the defender. Because of this, if the next receiver is aligned flat on the passer, then there will be little space and time for the player to react.

    This may be prevented by the passer passing early, however, the commitment by the defence will not be as great. Alternatively, the support player can retain greater depth. However, the passer will have to pass back further than is often the case.

    In this instance, support players must resist the temptation to flatten up in alignment as the attack moves forward.

    Penetration has already been alluded to under Principle 3 - Creating space. The basic blueprint is to create a situation in which there are more attackers in a channel of linear space than defenders. When the ball is passed to the unmarked attacker, the player penetrates.

    Speed is essential as the defence will be adjusting, to ensure each of the attackers is marked, in 1 vs 2 situations or 2 vs 3 situations. It is these situations that must be practiced to cue the players into the options during matches.

    Passing into space
    The defence has been held but is the ball carrier ready to pass immediately?

    Conrad Jantjes (South Africa) vs USA at Brisbane 7s, Australia. South Africa won 40-0 in the First Round.

    When a penetrating player moves into the gap, a defender will be drawn from another part of the defence to prevent penetration. When defended, the attacker may be aware of where the defence has come from and by passing to the player in that space, the gap will once again be threatened.

    - See Diagrams (4), (5) & (6) - Penetrating using the space

    The second player may also be tackled, however, the same awareness will create the same opportunity. Support players must be aware of the possibilities and converge on the lane, so that the attacking formation alters from a lateral pattern across the field, to a linear one down it.

  13. Supporting
  14. In 15-a-side rugby, with some exceptions, the main form of support involves players being close to the ball, so that the ball carrier has immediate support on contact. This ensures the retention of the ball.

    In Sevens, the relative infrequency with which contact should be made, means that close support is not nearly as important.

    The ball carrier attracts the defence, creating congestion. This creates space elsewhere across the field that can then be used to attack. If the attacking players group around the tackle, as the defenders may do to prevent a score, the opportunity to use space is lost.

    Should Dallas Seymour commit to regain possession or leave it to the other two New Zealand players to complete the job?

    New Zealand vs. Hong Kong, first round, Hong Kong 7s (2001). New Zealand won 38-0. Craig de Goldi y Matua Parkinson (kneeling) tackling a Hong Kong player.

    Consequently, the ball carrier must enter contact knowing how the ball is to be cleared to space, away from congestion. Equally, the supporting players must be in that space and aware of the ball carrier's options, so they can react to them.

    Their positioning should be lateral and also deep enough, so that they can respond to the pass, the roll or the kick back by the ball carrier, by moving forward to gather the ball. This position enables most players to use their peripheral vision to assess options. Once the ball has been gathered, the player has ail the ball carrying options but more space may be created, by an immediate second pass away from the congestion.

    This can be enhanced by players aligning in lanes across the field. This enables them to isolate the defender. Even before they receive the ball, they can use distractions to occupy the defender. This is done by changing running lines, feinting and by communicating openly with team-mates.

    Depending on the behaviour of the defence, the player may become the ball carrier or continue to be a decoy. As the ball carrier, the player may have out-manoeuvred the defence, prior to receiving the ball, so 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 player further along the line. Once a player's primary task as the ball carrier has been completed, the player should once again assume a supporting role.

    More often this will mean 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 in contact, to retain the ball and distribute to the players in space. Care must be taken when support is needed in contact to retain the ball. If players overcommit and the ball is lost, the opposing team has space in which to attack.

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