Everything you need to know for coaching rugby sevens


Dear rugby coach

Colin Hillman’s Expert Guide to Sevens will provide you with all you need to know for coaching rugby sevens.

Covering attack, defence, tactics, set pieces, training, match management and the laws, the manual is chock-full of “trade secrets” from leading coaches and sevens specialists:

  • Mike Friday (England)

  • Gordon Tietjens (New Zealand)

  • Ben Ryan (England)

  • Paul John (Wales)

  • Paul Treu (South Africa)

  • Joe Lydon (England)

  • Stephen Gemmell (Scotland)

  • Russell Earnshaw (England)

  • Liam Middleton (Zimbabwe)

  • John Elliot (England)

  • Billy Millard (Australia)

From easy to implement training ideas to match winning tactics, Colin Hillman’s Expert Guide to Sevens is packed with golden tips.

Written in plain English and with clear illustrations throughout, it is the complete guide for the novice and experienced coach alike.

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The ultimate sevens resource

Colin Hillman’s Expert Guide to Sevens is the ultimate resource for coaching sevens rugby. Including dedicated chapters on:

  • Attack

  • Defence

  • Match tactics

  • Set pieces

  • Training

  • Coaching a tournament

  • Team management

  • The laws

Read on for details about what's in each chapter...

Sevens attack

To win at sevens you need to focus on your attacking strategies and tactics. You need to change the mindset of your players to let them express themselves in an attacking environment where there are fewer defenders.

However, your team must have a structure to its play. The players have to understand when to run, when to pass and when to kick.

8 attacking principles

Colin Hillman’s Expert Guide to Sevens details the eight principles you need for creating a dynamic attacking force.

  1. Stretch their defensive line

  2. Keep testing their drift defence

  3. Always be a threat with the ball

  4. Work as a three man unit

  5. No 50:50 passes / 100% offloads

  6. If isolated, always go forward

  7. Clear the ball within the pressure area

  8. Never cut back into the pressure area

Featuring Mike Friday’s "compressed attack system" to spread and pull the defence

Offensive skills and tactics

Fully illustrated and with clear instructions for you to implement straight away, the manual progresses to look at the tactics and core skills required for:

  • Taking contact

  • Kicking

  • Countering their sweeper

  • Sequence plays

  • Evasion, offloads, spin passing, and the chip and chase

Sevens defence

Defence is the most distinct part of sevens. But like the 15-man game, it is frequently a state of mind as much as a physical contest. Good systems, aligned with excellent core tackling skills, will force errors and win turnovers.

10 techniques for defence

Colin Hillman’s Expert Guide to Sevens features the 10 basic techniques for coaching your sevens defence.

  1. Have a noisy sweeper

  2. Don’t be broken down the middle

  3. Work as units

  4. Take up the attacking space together

  5. No ball watching

  6. Use the “banana line” or “arc defence”

  7. Be patient

  8. Tackle the ball carrier to the ground and contest the ball

  9. Communicate the push

  10. Trust your team mates’ calls
Defensive skills and tactics

With detailed instructions and illustrations to implement right away, the manual progresses to look at:

  • Six man defence – the slide, slide arc, and sweeper

  • Seven man defence – seven up, press, and sweeper

  • Individual defensive skills – making the right tackle, understanding defensive zones
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Match tactics

Tactics are the choices of plays you are going to use in each game. These depend on your team, the opposition, the pitch and weather conditions.

Colin Hillman’s Expert Guide to Sevens will guide you to pick the best tactics for your team on day of the match.

  • Exploiting your strengths – tactics for a fast team, for a strong team

  • Reactive tactics – tactics for dealing with your opponent’s strengths, for playing with a sin binned player

  • Kicking – for touch, for goal, in open play

  • Playing the conditions – tactics for wet and for windy weather, and for playing on a narrow pitch

Including Ben Ryan’s four-point checklist for analysing the opposition

Set pieces

Possession is paramount in seven, so your set piece organisation is crucial.

With detailed instructions and clear illustrations, Colin Hillman’s Expert Guide to Sevens contains the set piece tactics every coach needs to win games.

Kick off

Unlike the 15-a-side game, in sevens it is the team that has just scored who kicks off.

  • Kicking off – short to the side, long to the side, split

  • Kick off reception – short, long

Sevens uses three man scrums, with the players scrummaging as they might in a normal game, with a low square stance.

  • Scrum defence – wheeling left, wheeling right

  • Scrum attack – wing ball / pull-out ball, centre field options

You can put as many as six players into the lineout in attack. However, most teams stick to two players and a player in the half back or receiver position.

  • Lineout attack – safe ball, Thai ball, Thai ball 1, Thai ball 2, option ball, joker ball

  • Lineout attack ploys – 6 dummy, 7 circle, blindside bomb ball, blindside 7 switch

  • Lineout defence – deciding whether to compete for the ball

From free kicks and penalties, most teams will choose to tap and go straight away. You may also kick for touch or for goal from a penalty.

There are, however, two pre-planned moves you need to know:

  1. Double posts

  2. Fix and switch

Whatever you decide to do, every player must expect the ball.

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A world class session
in two hours

Colin Hillman’s Expert Guide to Sevens contains Mike Friday’s seven cornerstone training drills.

Inspired by and dedicated to
Colin Hillman

Whilst writing this guide, Colin Hillman sadly passed away.

Colin was one of the great unsung heroes of sevens. Such was the respect for him around the world, that we were inundated by coaches offering to help us finish his guide.

We thank them all for their help and are proud to publish this book in memory of Colin Hillman.

Colin Hillman,
born 4 May 1961,
passed away 2 July 2009



Fast, simple, fun

Sevens is simple to play and has few rules to understand. Instead, there’s plenty of running, loads of handling, and a great deal of ebb and flow. It is a fast, skilful and fun sport, providing:

  • A great training work out for all standards of players

  • One of the best ways to introduce rugby to new players

  • An ideal opportunity for smaller schools and clubs to play competitive rugby

  • A fantastic way to keep the tail end of the season vibrant

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57 pages of practical coaching advice


Olympic interest

Never before has there been such an interest in rugby sevens. From the international arena to the grassroots, the sport is booming.

Sevens has a thriving professional circuit and is now an Olympic sport. Millions of children and young adults are set to experience the pace and skill of sevens for the first time.

At a local level, every year some 7,000 boys and girls take part in the UK’s National Schools Sevens tournament.

Popular in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas, and especially the South Pacific, sevens can boast a range of tournaments, teams, players, sponsors and fans worldwide. The sport is set only to grow.

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Featuring expert contributors


Packed with golden tips and “trade secrets” from leading sevens coaches

Gordon Tietjens, coach of New Zealand Sevens, eight times World 7s Series winners

Mike Friday, former England coach and winner of three World 7s Series tournaments in a row

Ben Ryan, England
Sevens coach

Paul John, coach of Wales Sevens, winners of the Rugby 7s World Cup in 2009

Paul Treu, coach of South Africa Sevens, World 7s Series Champions in 2009

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Joe Lydon, WRU Head of Rugby Performance & Development

Stephen Gemmell, Scotland Sevens coach

Liam Middleton, former coach of Zimbabwe Sevens,
Rugby 7s World Cup bowl winners in 2009

Billy Millard, Cardiff Blues backs coach and former head coach of Australia Sevens

With special contributions from…

Wayne Barnes, IRB international referee, with an insight into how the officials referee sevens

Simon Amor, former England Sevens captain

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With step by step instructions and full colour illustrations


“A must-have for any sevens coach”

Says William Thomas, Newport Gwent Dragons Manager, Wales

William Thomas

“I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to use the draft version of Colin Hillman’s Expert Guide to Sevens manual for a few months now, and it has been really useful in guiding me in every aspect of coaching and team management.

Everything an aspiring sevens coach needs to know is in here. There is an excellent professional and user friendly style to the manual and coupled with top tips from the most established sevens coaches in the world, it’s a must-have for any sevens coach.

Come June, the manual will be with me once again as I am taking an international team to the Safari Sevens. The manual will be almost more important to me than my passport!”

Defensive drills

To create a tight, tough defence. Four clearly explained and illustrated exercises.

  • Cutting down the angle – tracking back as a defender.
  • Creating a trap – drawing the attack to the touchline.
  • Subdue before support – realigning in defence.
  • Three man hold – buying time for the defence to realign.
Attacking drills

To create continuity and try-scoring opportunities. Three exercises with clear instructions and pictures.

  • Pass and drop – retaining continuity through support play

  • Pass, drop and punch – building an attacking pattern for the end of the line

  • Pass, drop, punch and return – taking the ball across the pitch to stretch the defence

Your guide to managing and running a team through a tournament

Coaching a tournament

Unlike the 15-a-side game, you can exert a lot more influence on your team during a sevens tournament, because of the gaps between games.

Colin Hillman’s Expert Guide to Sevens explains how to make the best use of your time before and after the games, to keep your players in the best state to play well.

  • Running a tournament plan

  • Picking the team

  • Mind and body – warming up, using technology

  • Eating and drinking

  • Substitutions and rotation

  • Post match routines
Team management

John Elliot has managed international sevens teams all over the world. In Colin Hillman’s Expert Guide to Sevens John shares his vast experience of the role of the sevens manager.

  • Pre-tournament

  • Uncontrollable factors – the weather, tournament rules, the Laws of the game, drug testing, stadium or ground

  • Controllable factors – player information, travel and accommodation, medical, equipment and kit, video, your opponents

  • Tournament days – the manager’s checklist
The Laws

Apart from having fewer than 15 players, there are a number of Laws unique to sevens. Colin Hillman’s Expert Guide to Sevens, provides a ready reference summary of:

  • Law 5 – Time

  • Law 9 – Scoring

  • Law 10 – Foul play

  • Law 13 – Kick off and restart kicks

  • Law 20 – Scrums

  • Law 21 – Penalties and free kicks
The ideal resource for sevens coaches

Colin Hillman’s Expert Guide to Sevens contains expert advice from renowned experts, clear diagrams and illustrations, and easy-to-follow instructions.

It is the ideal resource for new and experienced sevens coaches alike.

Never again will you need to research drills for your training sessions, or your match tactics. The world’s top sevens coaches have done it for you.

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Available in a format to suit you

You can buy Colin Hillman’s Expert Guide to Sevens in two formats:

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A PDF document: Sent to you by email to store on your computer. You can save trees and use less chemical-based ink by printing out only what you need, when you need it.

Make the most of this versatile format to print copies for colleagues. You only need Adobe Reader, which is packaged with most PCs and laptops, and which can be downloaded for free over the internet.

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An A4 colour printed spiral bound manual: Sent by post for your bookshelf, desk or kitbag. Spiral bound means you can use it without having to hold the page open as with most bound books. The durable covers prevent rain and mud damage.

Or order both versions at a special discounted rate. Combine the benefits of immediate PDF delivery and the ease of printing individual pages, with the practicality and durability of the colour printed copy.

Yours in rugby,

Dan Cottrell, Rocket Rugby Editorial Consultant

Dan Cottrell,
Head Coach, Rugby Coach Weekly

P.S. With expert advice from renowned experts, clear diagrams and illustrations, and easy-to-follow instructions, this is the ideal resource for sevens coaches.
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