The demands of 15s versus 7s rugby

The previous data that has been presented is based around 15-a-side game. Sevens rugby however, is becoming increasingly more popular and given the vastly different format, there is a resultant difference in game demands.

If we used 15-a-side data to guide the training of our sevens player (and vice versa) then the training would not be very specific. In sevens, the games are 14 minutes long and played with seven players on the same-sized pitch as fifteens. Sevens is usually run in a tournament format with multiple games on the same day or over 2-3 days. This format leads to different physical demands placed on the players.

The table below shows some of the performance variables during a single game of sevens and during a six-match tournament. Interestingly in sevens the forwards seem to cover more distance in the game and over the whole tournament in both low velocity and high velocity locomotion (Ross et al, 2015). This was not the case in fifteens with backs covering more distance than forwards. This is most likely down to an increase in space on the pitch for forwards to run into. Tackling demands in sevens appear to be quite low with the forwards making marginally more tackles per game and over the course of a tournament (Ross et al, 2015). When compared with the tackle count in fifteens as mentioned previously we can identify that there seems to be a greater tackling demand in fifteens, probably due to the increased space sevens players have to avoid tackles. It should be noted that the standard 5 m/s to denote high intensity running for men has been found to underestimate the high intensity efforts in women’s sevens rugby by up to 30% (Clarke et al, 2015). This highlights that while both variations have different physical demands, male and female players in the same variation have different physical capabilities and should be trained as such.

  Single Game 6 Game Tournament
Position Forwards Backs Forwards Backs
Distance covered (metres) 1452 1420 9118 8774
Distance at 0-5 m/s (metres) 1202 1173 7480 7163
Distance at > 5 m/s (metres) 252 249 1631 1570
Tackles 2.68 2.41 18.1 14.5

It is difficult to compare fifteens and sevens in the context of physical demands as whilst they are similar sports; the number of players and game time differences make them very different. Both should really be considered and if you are a coach of either variation then you must look to enhance your knowledge of that specific game.

There will be transfer in the skillset between both variations but there are large differences on the game demands. For training to be as effective as possible coaches must make training as relevant as possible to the specific demands of the variation.