Project restart: How the kick-off is used to launch attacks in rugby sevens

We take a look at how teams on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series use the restart to set an attacking platform.

You do not need to be an aficionado to identify many of the variations that make rugby sevens such a different spectacle to the 15-player format.

It makes sense that space will be created by removing 16 players from the action while keeping the pitch the exact same size.

How other law variations impact on sevens are much more subtle, however. Take the restart, for example.

In rugby sevens it is the team that has scored which restarts the match with a kick-off on halfway. That could be interpreted as an attempt to level up the playing field and ensure that both teams have an opportunity to get their hands on the ball.

But, the best players in the world have refined their restart skills to such an extent that the kick-off has become an attacking weapon — for the team kicking the ball away.

Whereas teams in 15s will often kick-off deep into opposition territory, sevens restarts are more likely to be hung up high towards the 10 metre line in order to give the kicking side’s players a chance to chase it down.

“Sevens is all about possession, so when you're kicking off you want to regain the ball,” Black Ferns star Kelly Brazier told World Rugby. 

“Probably 95-98 per cent of the teams on the [HSBC World Rugby Sevens] Series are trying to kick pretty much just to that 10 metre line to try and regather the ball, rather than in 15s [where] it’s quite often kicked deep to try and get them to kick it out.”

Brazier added: “It's obviously a massive part of our game and the more tries you score, the more you kick off. And, I'm obviously lucky to be a part of a team that scores quite a few tries. 

“So, that's definitely a focus point for us: how do we score and then regain the ball? So, we definitely have sessions that are spent on regathering that ball and working on the kick-offs, timing with different kickers, and those sorts of things.”

‘A challenging skill’

It is the same on the men’s World Series, where the most proficient teams have a restart retention rate of around 40 per cent, meaning they regain possession twice for every five kick-offs they take.

According to Marcus Watson, James Rodwell was once England’s “go-to guy” on restarts. Rodwell is now part of the Great Britain coaching team and will pass on his considerable knowledge in this area to both the men’s and women’s teams on the road to Tokyo 2020.

“The amount of times he'd get his big fingers on the ball, sort of bat them back and win us important ball was huge,” Watson said.

“There's nothing more, almost, devastating in defence [than] when you haven't touched the ball and the team's scored two, three tries just from kick-offs.”

Ruaridh McConnochie admits that he had to re-learn how to catch the ball from restarts when he made the switch to Bath and 15s following Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018.

He had been used to batting the ball back rather than catching it in sevens. He profited most memorably from this tactic at the Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens in 2016, when he scored a try deep into injury-time to secure a nail-biting 24-21 quarter-final defeat of Scotland.

Trailing 21-19 following Ollie Lindsay-Hague’s late try, England captain Tom Mitchell declined the conversion such was his confidence in his team’s ability to regain possession at the restart.

“He thinks that we're better off him coming back and winning the restart back, rather than him going for the touchline conversion, potentially missing and ending the game,” McConnochie explained. 

“So, he turns down the conversion and then we've basically gone on to win the kick-off. A few more bizarre events happen in the game and we end up scoring the winner in that [injury-]time period and knocking Scotland out in the quarters. 

“That's probably one of my most memorable occasions, actually, for England. It was a seriously tense moment, a high-pressure situation, but you’ve got to have those cool heads at that time. 

“And, getting the kick-off back isn't as easy as it looks sometimes. Some of the guys… Harry Glover out there makes it look very easy. But, it's a challenging skill.”

READ MORE: Tokyo Olympics: Which male rugby stars will shine for Great Britain in Japan? >>

Last updated: Feb 8, 2021, 3:11:59 PM
RWC Sevens 2022 image
wr-women-news-sevens wr-news wr-women-news Tournament News mz-advisory rwc7s-news wr-news-africa
DHL and Tudor begin the countdown to Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022
World Rugby today welcomes its first partners for Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022 following the appointments of DHL as Official Logistic Partner and Tudor as Official Timekeeper as they extend their respective partnerships ahead of the eighth edition of the tournament.
World Rugby logo - one to use for generic releases
wr-news wr-women-news mz-advisory
Reclassification of unions and widened representation on committees as World Rugby set to implement governance review recommendations
The reclassification of unions, implementation of an enhanced Integrity Code and wider representation on committee structures are at the heart of the package of transformational governance recommendations approved by the World Rugby Council today.
wr-gov-council wr-news wr-women-news mz-advisory wr-news-africa Media release
Rugby’s global expansion increases in Africa
Algeria and Burundi become full members of the international federation following approval at the World Rugby Council meeting
Australia's Wallaroos
wr-news Women's wr-women-news RWC2021 Rugby World Cup wr-women-news-2021
Wallaroos and Manusina to meet in two-test series
Women’s international rugby will return to Australia after an almost two-year absence with the Wallaroos set to face Samoa twice in July.
RWC 2021 Brand Mark
wr-news wr-women-news Tournament News mz-advisory RWC2021 Rugby World Cup wr-women-news-2021
Scene set for super-charged Rugby World Cup as new dates in 2022 confirmed
Rugby World Cup 2021 revised tournament dates which will see New Zealand host the tournament between 8 October-12 November, 2022.
sevens-news wr-women-news-sevens sevens Olympic Qualifying sevens-news-olympic wr-news-olympics-w Olympics wr-news wr-women-news mz-advisory wr-news-olympics-m
Olympic excitement builds ahead of World Rugby Sevens Repechage draw
Twelve women’s teams and 10 men’s teams to compete for the final two women’s and one men’s places at the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics.
2020 HSBC Sevens
sevens-news wr-women-news-sevens sevens-news-women sevens wr-news-sevens Olympic Qualifying sevens-news-feature sevens-news-olympic wr-news-olympics-w Olympics wr-women-news-regions wr-news wr-women-news Tournament News wr-news-olympics-m sevens-news-men
Olympic qualification would bring Samoa together in celebration, says Auimatagi Sapani
Samoa’s men’s and women’s sevens teams are both scheduled to compete in next month’s repechage tournament for the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Photo of France coach Annick Hayraud during England v France in the Autumn International Series
wr-news Women's wr-women-news Feature RWC2021 Rugby World Cup wr-women-news-2021
France coach Annick Hayraud confident of a bright future for Les Bleues
The France coach reflects on her side's Women’s Six Nations 2021 campaign as they prepare for the upcoming Rugby World Cup.
Portia Woodman RWC Sevens 2018
sevens-news wr-women-news-sevens Women's sevens-news-women sevens rwc7s-news wr-news-sevens sevens-news-feature sevens-news-history wr-ga-sevens wr-news wr-women-news Tournament News Rugby World Cup wr-women-news-classic sevens-news-men
Seven of the best players in Rugby World Cup Sevens history
From Waisale Serevi to Portia Woodman, we take a look at seven of the greatest players to grace the RWC Sevens tournament.
Photo of France's Jessy Trémoulière catching the ball
France2023 wr-news Women's wr-women-news Rugby World Cup France RWC2023
Player of the Decade Trémoulière on joining France 2023 Players' Committee
The France full-back talks to World Rugby about her selection on the Rugby World Cup France 2023 Players' Committee.