Colin Hillman’s Expert Guide to Sevens

Everything you need to know for coaching sevens - from the world's expert practitioners
Collin Hillman

Covering attack, defence, tactics, set pieces, training, match management and the laws, this 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).

Details the eight principles you need for creating a dynamic attacking force and the ten basic techniques for coaching your sevens defence.

From easy to implement training ideas to match winning tactics, Colin Hillman’s Expert Guide to Sevens is written in plain English and with clear illustrations throughout, it is the complete guide for the novice and experienced coach alike.

“An excellent resource for the budding 7s coach.” Keith Muirhead, Dutch National Students Team, Netherlands


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

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.

Featuring expert contributors

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

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

The ultimate sevens resource

Colin Hillman’s Expert Guide to Sevens is the ultimate resource for coaching sevens rugby. It includes 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.

  • Stretch their defensive line
  • Keep testing their drift defence
  • Always be a threat with the ball
  • Work as a three man unit
  • No 50:50 passes / 100% offloads
  • If isolated, always go forward
  • Clear the ball within the pressure area
  • Never cut back into the pressure area

Featuring Mike Friday’s “compressed attack system” to spread and pull the defence.

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

The manual features the 10 basic techniques for coaching your sevens defence.

  • Have a noisy sweeper
  • Don’t be broken down the middle
  • Work as units
  • Take up the attacking space together
  • No ball watching
  • Use the “banana line” or “arc defence”
  • Be patient
  • Tackle the ball carrier to the ground and contest the ball
  • Communicate the push
  • 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

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 sevens, so your set piece organisation is crucial, and the manual contains advice on several set piece tactics.

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:

Double posts

Fix and switch

“A must-have for any sevens coach,” says William Thomas, Newport Gwent Dragons Manager, Wales

“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, there are four clearly explained and illustrated exercises.

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

Attacking drills

To create continuity and try-scoring opportunities, there are three exercises with clear instructions and pictures.

  1. Pass and drop – retaining continuity through support play
  2. Pass, drop and punch – building an attacking pattern for the end of the line
  3. 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

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.


  • 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

This manual was inspired by and is dedicated to Colin Hillman. Whilst writing this guide, Colin 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, 4 May 1961 – 2 July 2009


Ebook, Print, Ebook + Print

5 reviews for Colin Hillman’s Expert Guide to Sevens

  1. Avatar

    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.”

    – William Thomas, Newport Gwent Dragons Manager, Wales

  2. Avatar

    Ken Hopkins

    “I have found over the years that the coaching resources devoted to Sevens Rugby has been very limited so I was delighted to hear about this new publication. Its timing is also perfect with so many Sevens competitions coming up over the next few weeks!

    I have been very impressed with this new Sevens manual – Colin Hillman’s guide to Sevens is filled with great ideas, tactics, skills and drills.

    It’s an easy to follow coaching guide and one of a long line of excellent coaching books by the Better Rugby Coaching team led by Dan Cottrell.

    I highly recommend this manual. It is an essential coaching tool for any serious coach of Sevens Rugby”.

    Ken Hopkins – Head Coach at Bracknell RFC (UK) Formerly Master in charge of Rugby Sevens – Wellington College – who won the National Schools Festival Title at Rosslyn Park on 8 occasions.

  3. Avatar

    Mike Bermingham

    This guide is easy to read and understand and is aimed at all levels of understanding, from parent/helpers, players to Senior Rugby Coaches.

    It is particularly enlightening for coaches who normally only involve themselves in 15’s.

    It has clear and easily implemented tactics for both attack and defence strategies but also allows for creativity from both players and coaches.

    There are some excellent practical tips by eminent internationally recognised coaches and players throughout the manual.

    I highly recommend his guide

    – Mike Bermingham – UK

  4. Avatar

    Carter Croft

    This publication is truly outstanding, the offensive, defensive descriptions and illustrations are superb and simple to follow. Mike Fridays contributions are magnificent.

    This will be on the number one shelf in my Rugby library, the attention to detail has left no stone unturned.

    – Carter Croft Coach to Swiss national and U 20’s – Hermance League 1 Swiss, formerly Oyonnax Pro 2, France.

  5. Avatar

    Keith Muirhead

    Your 7s Guide is an excellent resource for the budding 7s coach. There is normally a tiny gap between the 15s season and the 7s season and it is not so easy to switch your thinking. Your Guide provides the perfect aide-memoire.

    I particularly appreciate the list of ‘non-negotiables’ which really helps to set your thought processes.

    Keep it up!

    – Keith Muirhead – Dutch National Students Team – Netherlands

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Colin Hillman was a former Welsh rugby coach with the Wales National Sevens team. Collin Hillman was also Spanish National Sevens Rugby coach and developer of rugby in Spain. Hillman also remained as Director of Rugby at Bridgend RFC and was still a WRU Technical Advisor to the Wales Sevens team at the time of his death. During his senior playing career, Hillman was hooker for Bridgend RFC but also played for the Barbarians, Wales Sevens, Swansea RFC, South Wales Police RFC, Bridgend Sports and Merthyr rugby clubs. Alongside his role with Wales 7s, Colin was also an integral part of the Samurai rugby 7s brand becoming one of the most recognisable in the world of rugby today via both coaching and managing.