2012 Summer Sevens season – Paddy Mac Updates – July part 3

Posted by SCRRS Website Committee on July 12th, 2012

We enjoyed another spectacular weekend at the Cape Fear 7s, Ray and his crew continue to run a great Sevens tournament. Yes it was hot, but at least it was humid too. Watched a lot of great Sevens and some potential referee talent, it was good to see the South doing it again. Some observations:


We teach our referees that the three most important phases of Sevens rugby are the tackle, the tackle, and the tackle. There are other phases of play and they have importance, but at the end of the day, the quality of the matches will depend on how accurately and how consistently we sort out the breakdown. The ball should be made available immediately; if it does not come out quickly then something is wrong. It’s a dynamic, high-speed contest for possession that we need to get right.


First and foremost, the tackler MUST release the ball carrier and allow them a chance to play the ball. The tackler can then get to his/her feet and contest for possession before a ruck or maul is formed. There needs to be a clear and obvious physical separation between the tackler and the ball carrier after going to ground, before the tackler can contest again for possession. Getting the tackler away from the ball carrier is the first thing a referee should ALWAYS work on at the tackle.


One of the vagaries of rugby, a tackler assist is someone who executes a tackle by bringing the ball carrier to ground, but is not considered a tackler because they remain on their feet. The tackler assist must release the ball carrier like a tackler, but must come through the gate (backside facing their own dead ball line), unlike a tackler. In the chaos that surrounds the breakdown in Sevens rugby, some players make sure they go to ground (at least one knee on the ground), which will allow them to recover and poach the ball from any direction. But if the tackler remains on his/her feet, they will be treated like any other arriving player and be required to enter through the gate.


It is vital that once referees have sorted out the ball carrier/tackler sequence, that every arriving player must come through the gate and stay on their feet. This requires referee to focus on the tackle AND observe the arriving players as they approach the tackle area. Referees should recognize situations such as when the attacking team has made a line break and the defense is in retreat – ensure that the defenders take that extra step or two and COME AROUND to the their side of the tackle and enter through the gate. Arriving players must also remain on their feet and referees need to be vigilant about players leaving their feet and sealing off the ball. If a player is at the tackle/ruck on all fours, make sure they can still support all their weight on their feet, i.e., if you slapped their hands away would they remain upright or would they fall to the ground. When players go straight to ground, usually on top of the ball or just in front of the ball, and make no pretense of staying on their feet, the referee should penalize immediately (no advantage necessary). Let all the players know there is a standard that will be kept.


Ball carriers have responsibilities too and once the tackler has clearly released, the ball carrier must play the ball or move away from the ball. Arriving players (non-tacklers) coming through the gate, on their feet, do not have to wait and can contest for possession immediately. Referees also need to recognize situations where the ball carrier is isolated and use their voice and management skills to let the ball carrier know they must play the ball NOW.

A big thank you to Mike and Denise Summerlin for taking good care of the match officials at Cape Fear, to John Meyers and the stalwart SERRS crew, and to Lauren for keeping us cool and hydrated. Please don’t forget to leave the two-day old Thai food alone. Hope to see you at the Sunsplash 7s Qualifier this weekend in Long Beach.

Paddy Mac

Patrick McNally
National Sevens Referee Manager
USA Rugby

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