|About 7s Special||Introduction||Seven and Fifteens||Basic guide|
|History of Sevens||Melrose and Middlesex||Hong Kong||Taupiri|
|7s in USA||Seven Styles||Attack||Deffense|
|Kickoffs and DropOuts||Set Scrums||Lineouts||Set Plays|
|Kicking||Drills for Sevens||Three-week practice||A 7s program|
|Fitness & Training||Fitness Testing||Selection||Analyisis Using Videotape|
Selection for Sevens
"A sovereign who obtains the right persons prospers. One who fails to do so will be ruined." -- Sun Tzu, The Art of War
This has certainly been the most difficult chapter to write. It has been written in its entirety, and discarded, in each of the past five years.
The problem, for me, is that it is easy to put down on paper several theoretical principles for picking members of a sevens team. Nevertheless, I can name numerous occasions when I have a) followed those principles and picked a perfectly disastrous team, or b) ignored those principles and picked a guy because, well . . . just because ("ya know, George, I got this hunch . . . "), with both good and bad results.
And yet, there are certainly logical principles that should be applied to the selection process, and numerical information about size, strength, speed, power, and endurance cannot help but be of some value.
There is a certain validity, for example, in the statement that "a good big player is better than a good little player," or "a good fast player is better than a good slow player." Assuming, that is, that "good" means the same in all cases. Which it rarely does.
There are certain undeniably quantifiable assets, such as speed, endurance, size and strength, that are extremely valuable to a sevens team. There are also, however, some less quantifiable qualities -- like composure under pressure, creativity, ability to "read" the field, "savvy," heart, desire; the list goes on and on -- that present selectors with great difficulties. And opportunities.
If you've ever selected for your club side, you've probably gone through all the arguments and agonies that take place at the national level: the skill sets and the abilities of the players may be significantly different, but the types of choices -- among available players available -- are probably similar.
The discussion that follows should be taken for just that -- a discussion, one that hopefully provides food for thought.
Although I have included others' opinions wherever possible, this is a very personal chapter. Ultimately, the selection of each team is a highly unique and often tortuous process, which may well pre-determine a team's success regardless of all the training and coaching that follows.
So much for faith in the scientific method.
I think that any criteria for selection that don't include a statement such as "All seven should . . . (whatever)" are deficient. I like the following comments in J.C.S. Bass's book (of course I was predisposed to like the guy after reading his comments about his own selections that included words like "haunted," "lying in bed sleepless," etc..):
All seven players must be safe tacklers, reliable handlers, good ball-winners at breakdowns and have the ability to retain possession of the ball on contact. . . . Up to a point there is no division between forwards and backs. They should all be able to sell a dummy, side-step, go into a maul and come out with the ball.
Motherhood stuff, perhaps, but the "all seven players must" is the key phrase. Too much of the game is spent in the open field with players sharing responsibilities for us to be able to rely on specialist players with major deficiencies.
What else should all seven possess? According to Australian coach Bob Dwyer, we must have players that have composure, and can react quickly: if the call's made, before the sound's gone, the ball has to be on its way. And that requires composure, concentration, and reaction time.
[All] players must be good defenders -- you can't have a player that can't defend.
And then you look for some speed.
Scotland's Jim Telfer says that all seven should have
- a fair amount of pace,
- a fair work rate,
- they'd be good tacklers, and
- they'd be good ball players.
Amongst the lot you'd hope to have faster men than the opposition.
Telfer also notes that a lot of great 15s' players, even backs, can be poor sevens players; specifically these include players that "can't beat a man, can only take men on."
Fijian coach Kitione Tuibua looks for players that when they lose possession, can regain possession in a very short time. A very short time.
Speed is the word one constantly hears applied to sevens, and there is no question that it's important. But how should it be distributed? And more importantly, what should be sacrificed to obtain it?
Bryce Rope, former All-Black coach, has little doubt as to the criticality of speed: it should be a prime criteria for selection.
If your selections are not right, you'll never win the critical tournaments. Players who are not really good 15-a-side players can be turned into magnificent seven-a-side players, but your selection, say of nine players, must include seven or eight, at least, who have the ability, when a break is made, to be able to go the full length of the rugby field on their own.
Speed all the way. It is no good having a player who can make a break, only go for 10 or 15 meters, and then find he has run out of steam.
That was the secret of what I call the famous All Black teams of 1986 and 1987.
While noting that all seven must be skillful, be able to tackle, have self control ("they can't do stupid things under pressure"), Peter Thorburn adds "although they've got to have those attributes, we basically pick for speed."
That's all well and good if you can find a team of seven or eight players that are fast and can create space or win scrums and lineouts and play disciplined team offense and defense (something that is far more probable in New Zealand than in the US).
It's been my experience that, without speed, it is very difficult to win high level tournaments. Given speed as your only virtue, however, you're even less likely to win than a team with little speed but other "redeeming" qualities.
As noted above, Bob Dwyer looks for other attributes before speed.
Probably Australia's best ever sevens team didn't have great speed, but it had good all around speed. It had Mark and Glenn Ella, and Michael O'Connor, who has pretty good speed, and Brendan Moon, who has pretty good speed. But none of them are speedsters in [Ian] Williams' class. But they had good positional sense and very good support sense.
He adds, however, that nowadays, "at international level, you're dead without speed."
In fact, however, the back line Australia used in the 1989 Sydney Sevens -- Arthuro Niquila, David Campese, and Ian Williams -- was probably their fastest to date, but played abysmally. With flyhalf Michael Lynagh -- clearly their best tactician -- back in the lineup at Hong Kong the following week, Australia made it to the finals.
In the process of striving for as fast a team as possible within other constraints we impose on players, virtually all teams try to make sure they have at least one "flyer," preferably two, on the squad of nine or ten.
Often, however, the fastest available player is not selected. The reasons? Possibly defense, possibly hands (or lack thereof), possibly inability to retain possession, to redistribute, to think (or react correctly) under pressure, etc..
In order to get one flyer on your team you may have to sacrifice something in creativity, and possibly other attributes; depending on just how fast your flyer is, however, it might be worth it. As you consider a secondary (and tertiary, etc..) "flyer," however, the less you should be willing to give up.
Another measure we might wish to consider is "team speed." In other words, if we have to come to grips with the fact that our "best" sevens players are our slower ones, and if we believe that we need a couple of finishers, just how many "slow" players can we live with?
Well, probably more than one, and probably less than seven.
The offensive penalty for lack of speed is the necessity to do perfectly several times what a faster team needs do only once: create a gap or an overlap and put someone into it. For a team with good team speed, the odds are much greater that any random player put into that position will finish than they are for a slower team.
Will "medium speed" players, then, that can stretch a break out for 40-50 yards, or finish from that distance, be an improvement over players that can't do much more than get through a gap and give up the ball? Probably, given that they're "equally good" players.
Yes, you have to consider the better skills, decision making, etc.., the slower teams might have, but in the end, they will have to be lots better in these areas than the faster teams.
The defensive burden that lack of speed puts on you is that your slow players are never going to catch their fast players, and so must never be put in that situation. Your slow players must be defensive standouts and be able to "push" their faster opponents either toward another defender or the sidelines when the situation demands it.
This requires that all players on your team be able to play good team defense. Basketball's Larry Bird, a slow player by NBA standards, is speaking of basketball in the following quote, but it certainly applies to sevens as well: "I've never been a great one-on-one defender, but I know enough to always run my man into Robert or Kevin. A lot of guys on this team don't understand that. Until everybody takes team defense to heart, we won't be very good."
What is fast?
Having talked "fast" and "slow," then, what are fast and slow, in absolute terms? The discussion that follows is based on times over 110 yards (the length of the field -- well, some would have you believe that it's really 100 meters long, but we Americans know better).
The world record for the 100-m is 9.8 seconds, which translates into 9.9 for 110 yards.
The fastest national level American rugby players, timed in non-spiked running shoes, unopposed, on a tracks, fall in the 11.0 to 11.3 sec/110-Y range (and include, among others, Kevin Higgins, Rory Lewis, Jon Lee, Mike Glass, Robard Williams and Dare Studevant). Based on very limited evidence, these times probably correspond to times of 10.6 to 10.9 seconds in 100 meter races, if competitive conditions and track spikes are factored in.
Some well known rugby speedsters whose times fall in that category include Ian Williams (Australia) and Ieuan Evans (Wales).
How slow is slow? Our slowest sevens Eagles, Dave Poquette and Jimmy Wilkinson, both fail to better 13 seconds (about 13.2/13.3) for 110 yards, and yet were selected to the Eagles' sevens team each year between 1988 and 1990 based on their ball winning and retention skills, their defense, and their impeccable decision making under fire.
The average speed of the 1988 Eagle sevens team was 12.5 seconds over 110 yards; the 1989 Eagle Sydney team 12.2 and Hong Kong team 12.0; the 1990 Eagles team 12.2 at Hong Kong and 12.3 at Sicily. The 1991 Eagles' 110-yard average is barely better than 12.0.
The fastest territorial team that I have coached were the Eastern seven that won the 1988 ITTs (12.1 s/110-Y).
I'm not sure what relevance I can give those figures; consider them raw data for your consideration.
At this point in our development, it seems that a national team speed of approximately 12.0 s/110-y is about the fastest the US can expect, given other requirements.
I suspect that to win international sevens tournaments we're going to have to better that team speed without sacrificing our other qualities.
Other quantifiable attributes
The other quantitative measurements of fitness include anaerobic and aerobic endurance, and strength and power. These have been discussed earlier in the chapter on fitness training, and I don't intend to discuss numbers here.
Obviously our hypothetical "good" player is going to be better the fitter and stronger and more powerful that player is, but one needs to be even more careful using these numbers in selection than using speed numbers.
From what I've seen, in addition, we haven't really found an endurance test that's as relevant to sevens as to 15s.
Hopefully our attempts to measure speed endurance (described in the section on fitness) will provide a useful benchmark in this area.
Individual Requirements within the Team
The team must have one or more individuals that can fulfill the following requirements: ball-winning, on the ground, in the air, and at the tackle, finishing, i.e. scoring tries, creating, i.e. making the initial move that begins to "undiscipline" the opponents, and destroying, i.e. disrupting the opponents' offense.
No matter what everyone says about speed in sevens, you've got to win the ball before you can score tries. Preliminary statistics indicate that in an average sevens game there are about 6 scrums, 6 kickoffs, and 3 lineouts. In addition, again based on limited data, we can expect approximately 4 balls from mauls or from the pile-up situation. The average number of rucks in a sevens game is zero.
One message is that balls are won in the air (kickoffs + lineouts) nearly as often as on the ground. The implication is that we should have a) at least one player that can win both lineout and high kickoff ball, and b) a player that can kick the ball -- on kickoffs -- to a place where a superior jumper will win it.
A well balanced sevens team should have both a first class jumper and kicker. In 1989, in fact, I wrote "I insist that we have [one of each]" In 1990, however, the team we took to Hong Kong did, in fact, not have a first-class kicker, and it hurt us badly.
On a squad of nine or ten, a team should really have two jumpers, and a second player that can kick at least reasonably well.
Tall props tend to have more problems scrummaging than shorter players, and it's also nice to have someone that can scrap for ball on the ground as well, so that it may well be preferable to have a second prop with these characteristics (shorter, stronger, wins ball on ground).
Two tall props that can scrummage and win ball on the ground as well as in the air, are, of course, the best of all worlds.
One compromise that the USA Rugby East squad used in 1989 to get two good lineout jumpers plus a scrummaging prop was to use 6'3 Terrence Titus at hooker and 5'11 Jim Wilkinson at power (tight head) prop.
As mentioned above, a kicker is a necessity; even more, I am convinced, for kickoffs than conversions. Dick Best agrees: "his kicking off is absolutely crucial."
At the very least, however, we must have a kicker that will make the easy conversions.
With all the work that we do to put a player into space, it's important that we have people that can finish; without speed we will have to repeat the creation process several times, drastically increasing the probability of a turnover. It's absolutely vital that we have one player that can finish a break against anybody; I think we need at least 2 legitimate finishers; preferably (of course), more. One of the things that makes Fiji so dangerous is that they normally play with 7 finishers (and 2 finishers on the bench).
One final note: while finishing correlates very highly with speed, it is not a one to one correspondence: for example Barry (Williams) Tofaeono, one of the best finishers in the US, although he has excellent speed, is not nearly the fastest player in the country. Barry, however, has a uniquely powerful sidestep and is a very difficult player to tackle, two attributes that complement, and to some extent replace, speed for a potential finisher.
The primary finisher is normally the wing; given two props that can handle the scrummaging tasks by themselves, a secondary finisher can be placed at the hooker position; from the set pieces we can play with a "wing" on either side of the field. This will be discussed in more detail under positional requirements.
The creators are the players that do something with the ball in their hands, after it comes from the ball winners, in order to get it into the hands of the finishers in space.
New Zealand's Bill Freeman has spoken of the need, not for "the ball to do the work," but for the ball carrier to do it.
We fast came to the conclusion that the person with the ball must initiate the penetration, it will not occur with just the passing of the ball."
That "person with the ball" may sometimes be a big forward, but more often is the more traditional "creator."
This person needs to be agile and nimble, able to probe small spaces and come out if they close, able to read a wide area of the field, sense when a second defender (or the "wrong" defender) has been committed, and immediately get the ball to someone to continue the attack (for example to move to the wing, or to go directly up the field).
Probably the most prevalent location of this player is at the fly-half position.
We could probably create a fourth offensive category -- that of distributor: someone that takes the ball from the creator and moves it to the finisher.
While we no doubt have individuals that excel at that trade -- most likely the center -- because of the generalized nature of positions in sevens, the role of distributor is probably one that should fall in the category of "all seven should . . . "
There's no need to describe these: we all know the players who come through to demoralize the opponents with a devastating tackle, especially in time of need, that get the attackers moving backwards and take them totally out of their game.
Often one of the props, it can even be a scrum half that spoils all the ball coming out of the scrum.
The earlier the destroyers establish themselves, the earlier the potential to disrupt the opponents' plans.
If competent at the general requirements of the game, the destroyer can well become the catalyst that can turn a game around.
Requirements by position
I have deliberately avoided beginning with positional requirements, preferring to begin with the "all seven must" plus a list of the types of individual attributes we need. We will, however, need to put our players into positions, and a position by position discussion may help us decide where to put the creators, destroyers, etc..
In the discussion that follows, the format will be to present other experts' comments followed by my own observations.
Forwards. Jim Hewitt's first requirement for a good sevens team is its forwards:
What you've got to have, particularly, is good forwards, preferably three big forwards, two big forwards at least: your forwards must be capable, must be fast, must be good handlers, and they must be able to win the ball.
Mike Williams has written the following about forward selection: "Strength and speed are priorities; handling ability and teamwork secondary requirements."
I disagree; the strong player who can't handle well nor work within the team pattern will be more of a liability than an asset.
More to my liking, Williams has written of the two props that one is likely to be more of a forager; selected primarily for his mauling, rucking and aggressive ball hunting and the other more of a creative ball players, selected for his running and football ability. In this way the function of the props will be covered and their play will harmonize together effectively.
The former description will normally apply to the tight- head, the latter to the loose-head.
Tight-head prop. I concur with Chris Bass:
the strongest of the three forwards, a very solid scrummager, but fast and mobile as well. If he happens to also be a tall, specialist line-out jumper then one can hardly ask for more.
I also tend to agree with Bryce Rope's comments that of the 3 forwards, one has to be so strong that he can play tight or loose head, depending on which way you want the scrum screwed. Strong enough to take the pressure of any player virtually in the world who could upset him.
Of course, he had Wayne Shelford. I think the comment about a power prop that plays tight or loose head (generally tight head on our ball and loose head on theirs) has merit, and I've discussed it in the chapter on scrummaging.
Additionally, the tight-head prop is perhaps the most likely candidate to be the "destroyer."
Loose-head prop. Bass describes the loose-head as the quickest forward, chosen primarily for his ability as a 'spoiler' of opposition ball and his own skills as a ball winner.
I agree. Furthermore, if we've chosen a short player at tight head because of scrummaging skills, we need a lineout jumper here.
A loose-head prop that can break out of the scrum quickly and add pressure to a trapped fly half will also help our team effort.
And if that player is All-Black winger John Kirwan, who played loose-head prop for New Zealand in the 1988 Hong Kong Sevens, so much the better.
Eagle Gary Lambert, perennial loose-head for the Eagles, does a great job from this position as "destroyer."
Hooker. Many experts insist that a sevens hooker should be a specialist (i.e. a 15s' hooker). Williams comments that the hooker's prime responsibility is winning possession of the ball at set scrummages. In all rugby the hooker is a specialist. Any other ability he possesses is secondary.
Bass concurs with this view.
I have found that Bryce Rope's observation is much closer to mine: "The hooker could be anybody."
Even New Zealand and Australia (and the British sides, for that matter), however, seem to favor using fast flankers at the hooker position.
Given good props, hooking in sevens is not that difficult a task; I've found that it's a perfect place to put another wing. Thus Will Brewington, the Eagles' number one choice at hooker for most of the last five years, is a 15-a-side wing (and a relatively small one at that).
I like to select a hooker that can be a finisher.
He does, with our style of play, at least, need to be a hard defensive player as well.
Scrum half. Some people feel the scrum half is the single most key position on the field. Bryce Rope comments that the number one selection is the halfback. He is the key, he is the cornerstone, he is the brains, he is the medium, he is the axle round which the whole of the wheel of sevens revolves.
Rope places great emphasis on speed at the scrum half position:
He needn't be a half back in the 15-a-side game, but he has to have the ingredients of exceptional speed off the mark, he's got to be able to go the full length of the field when he makes his break on the blind side. He's got to be the center player in nearly every facet of the game of sevens. If your halfback is not up to standard, you won't be able to coach sevens, or a pattern of sevens, up to the standard.
Williams echoes Rope's sentiments: "The scrum half is the linchpin of the team. A running scrum half is an essential requisite."
Nevertheless, some of the best sevens scrum halves in the US in the last 10 years -- Tommy Smith and Danny Parris come to mind -- are not fast at all, nor are they characterized by their breaks around the scrum; they just fulfill different roles than Rope's scrum halves: Smith as a creator, and Parris as a destroyer.
A scrum half that can make breaks is of course of great value; a scrum half that can stop the ball at its source (as it's emerging from the scrum) may be even more valuable (e.g. Danny Parris, perhaps the best in the US at spoiling hooked ball).
Most of the literature on sevens recommends that the scrum half be a specialist (15s) scrum half. (Williams: "It is essential to play a specialist in the scrum-half position.") Even though Rope recognizes that this is not necessarily the case, the New Zealand record indicates that their sevens scrum halves have normally been 15s' scrum halves, as have Australia's.
I haven't had that experience: I've found that scrum half is another position into which we can put a non-specialist "great sevens player" in order to utilize that player's strengths.
That assumes, of course, that that player can perform those tasks peculiar to the scrum half position.
Certainly putting the ball into the scrum is no big deal.
Picking up the ball under pressure and passing it "in a flash, . . . under pressure from his opposite number, who is breathing down his neck," as Williams highlights in his argument for the specialist scrum half, however, is; if your scrum half is the only player that can do it, then play the scrum half.
On most teams that I have coached, starting with the Bethlehem teams of the 1970s (Sean Lynch, center), the scrum half has come from some other backfield position. Of the Eagles, neither Tommy Smith (fly half, fullback) nor Chris Petrakes (center, wing), for example, play the position in 15s.
Fly half. The general consensus has the fly half as the player that controls the tactics of the team -- a responsibility possibly shared with the center or the scrum half.
Williams writes that along with the scrum half he is at the center of the team and gives the tactical inspiration which will guide the team to victory.
Rope considers the fly half and center to have similar requirements:
The first five-eighths, or fly half, and the center have to be players who are interchangeable. They can play in either position. It may be that your fly half or your center could even be your reserve half back. They have got to be quick players, with outstanding ball skills, ability to have sufficient strength to stay on their feet at all times.
I'm not sure that interchangeability at these two positions is a universal fact: for example, John Schuster, clearly one of the best centers in the world, did not seem to operate quite as effectively when moved to fly half by the All-Blacks.
Chris Bass notes that the fly half is an ideal captain, being ideally positioned to control tactics and the general tempo when in possession. A variety of handling and running skills with a good deal of tactical know-how are his main qualifications.
This certainly describes the type of player -- the creator -- that I prefer to have at the fly half position.
Furthermore, without challenging the importance that Bryce Rope attaches to the scrum half, an argument can certainly be made for the fly half as "the" key position on a sevens team: the fly half not only controls the team's tactics, but is also expected to do so under intense pressure.
New Zealand's domination of the sevens world in 1986 and 1987 relied not only on the power play of Wayne Shelford, but also on the tactical sense of fly half Frano Botica. They lost the 1987 Sydney Sevens, but only after Botica was forced out of the tournament by an injury. In fact, New Zealand's failure to dominate world sevens as thoroughly now as they have in the past can, I feel, be attributed in large measure to their failure to find an adequate replacement for Botica.
As noted earlier, Australia without Michael Lynagh at fly half is not nearly the team that it is with him: Niquila, Campese, and Williams are all fantastic finishers, but without a field general, their effectiveness is diminished.
At any rate, perhaps we shouldn't nit-pick the "most important position" issue to death: what is certainly clear, however, is that among the scrum half, fly half, and center, to be discussed next, one of those three players must be the tactical inspiration of the team, or it is unlikely to be successful.
Center. According to Bass, the center is probably the most dynamic runner in the seven. He needs to be the most aggressive of the backs, in attack and defense, and always with an eye for the break or overlap.
I don't think that's enough. There are a lot of centers that fulfill those requirements to a "T", and yet lack tactical sense. The center is the ideal player to be the "distributor" described above. I'd prefer a creator without speed in this position than a speed player that couldn't create.
In fact Williams notes two roles of the center: Some see him as a really fast attacker, a sort of inside winger with the same blistering pace; others see him as the general of the team, the man who controls its output, pace, and tactics. Much will depend on the players available.
The second was the situation on the 1987 USA Rugby East club champion Bethlehem team: to increase our team speed we used wings Greg Pascale and Scott Walker at fly half and wing, with center Dave Priestas acting as the general.
Priestas was also put at center in that team for his defensive abilities; although it's true that everyone should play open-field defense, the center is probably the most exposed of the backfield positions.
Wing. Virtually universally called "the flyer."
Obviously our number one choice as a finisher. But the wing also needs to be willing to tackle -- straight up and not just from the side -- and better be ready, willing and able to chase down a player that's just made a break all the way on the other side of the field.
Furthermore, given the stereotyped (albeit often true) view of the wing as the "glory position," Williams notes correctly that although the winger in sevens will roam to some extent, he must always remember that he is part of the team. The biggest sin is to think that he can beat the field every time he has the ball, setting off full of confidence only to be caught and lose the ball.
In other words, it's usually correct to play your fastest player there, but if that player doesn't have the basic skills required by your "All seven players must . . . " definition, then you may be giving up more than you're gaining.
Blending the team
Despite all the individual and positional requirements discussed above, the team is not merely as good as its individual parts; they must be combined correctly.
The captain of the remarkable London Scottish teams of the 1960s, Iain Laughland's first comment, when asked about selection, was that the first thing is to get the right sort of blend between the physical player and the touch player. For instance, a forward who can work the ball and a forward who can handle the ball. A winger who can run fast, and a touch player positioned nearer the scrum who can bring the rest of the side into play.
In other words, we need the right combination of creators, ball winners, destroyers, finishers, etc..
You must have a ball winner, a creator, and a finisher. And, if the right person's available, a destroyer. It's when it comes to filling out the team that the more difficult "blending" decisions must be made.
Based on my experiences -- both successful and disastrous -- I would say that, when in doubt, choose another creator over another finisher: when necessary, the creator will keep the ball alive for the next sortie.
On the Atlantis team that competed successfully in the 1990 Taupiri Sevens in New Zealand, one of our backfield combinations was: scrum half Chris Petrakes, fly half Charlie Wilkinson, center Steve Siano, wing Chris O'Brien -- all not only creators, but all players that normally play fly half in sevens, at least for their club. We were willing to settle for O'Brien, a fast but not super-fast player, to share the finishing role with hooker Will Brewington.
Too many finishers (without the all-round ball and tactical skills required) can lead to too many turnovers if the try isn't scored on the first attempt.
Filling out the squad
At all sevens tournaments a squad of either nine or ten players is permitted. Make sure that in your squad you can cover every position twice and that no matter which seven you field, you have someone that can kick, jump, and scrummage.
If you're playing a tournament which requires 5 or 6 or even 7 games to win, you will probably want to make sure everyone in your squad plays (you may even want to do this for political reasons alone).
If you've determined a "strongest seven" prior to the tournament, you obviously want to play the other three players in the less important games.
You also want to choose the players you rest; don't make the less fit members of your first seven play in any meaningless games (excusing their lack of fitness is another issue).
If you've got any "new" combinations that you're planning on playing in the finals, however, you probably ought to make sure they get to play at least one easy game on the way.
In important tournaments with only three or four games to win (e.g. the US national sevens championships before 1989), you should probably play your best seven every game. I reckon failure to do that might have cost my club a better finish in both the 1985 and 1987 national championship tournaments.
This chapter's goal, rather than prescriptive, has been to lay out some thoughts for the reader to ponder. In the end, coaches and selectors must determine their own criteria and either enjoy or suffer the consequences.