What it Takes to Play Rugby Sevens

It’s speedy, skilful and one of the fastest growing sports in the world.

Rugby Sevens is a seven-a-side variant of rugby union. Played on the standard rugby pitch, but with far less than the usual 15 players in a full union match, sevens rugby is a free-flowing game based on pace and power over the course of its short matches.

The success of Rugby Sevens has been rapid since its inception, now hosting several major international tournaments, with the IRB Sevens World Series being the most popular – not only for the talent, but the parties in the stands.

Costumes, loud music and a good time surrounds the sport, and it’s no secret why more countries are lining up to play it. The game has even grown in popularity to the extent that it now has been granted full Olympic status.


What it takes to be a successful sevens player

While the game is famous for what happens in the stands, the amount of skill, strength and conditioning of a Rugby Sevens player is up there with the best in the world – seriously.

The distances they must cover, the level of fitness and muscular endurance, and not to mention skill a player is undoubtedly matching the world’s best athletically.

The constant starting and stopping, the need for speed and agility, coupled with solid ball handling and physicality makes sevens a difficult beast to master.

There are very few breaks and the fast paced atmosphere of a Rugby Sevens tournament can quickly expose those who haven’t prepared properly.

An experts insight

While the fifteen-a-side game requires significant strength, sevens is more about speed and agility says High Performance Manager, Simon Price.

Specific conditioning for sevens players has become a vital component in the success of a team. A good aerobic level is required, and players need to be able to handle huge amounts of volume and running.

Speed endurance is the key for a sevens player. They must have the ability to run at their top speeds for as long as possible through 20-minute game periods.

Simon provided us with an insight of how a professional Rugby Sevens player trains and prepares for tournaments.

How different is training for Rugby Sevens compared to the normal 15-a-side game?

15’s rugby plays a one-off 80 minute game covering 4600m – 7300m with 5% – 11% above 18km/hr. 7’s tournaments can consist of more than 6 games over 2 days.

Male 7’s players cover 1100 – 1700m per game with 8.4% – 20% above 18km/hr. Reaching max velocities of 26.1km – 31km/hr, with 137 – 225m above 20km/hr.

Female 7’s players cover 1050 – 1100m per game with 8.3% – 11% above 18km/hr. Reaching max velocities of 22.9km – 29km/hr, with 84 – 150m above 20km/hr

15’s rugby consist of more collisions with larger body contesting set piece, rucks, mauls and breakdowns.  7’s is a more open, expansive game consisting of fewer collisions and more repeated running efforts.

How conditioned does a player have to be? Is it all about muscle endurance to survive?

From the above information it’s important to have the ability to cover up to 10,200m with 2040m being over 18km/hr for males, and 6600m with 726m being over 18km/hr for females, over two days.

It’s also important to have the ability to sprint up to 225m for males and 150m for females.

Effective conditioning training should consider the work:rest ratio match demands of 7’s:

  • Male 7’s 1:0.3 (60sec work : 18sec Rest)
  • Female 7’s 1:0.4 (60sec work: 24sec Rest)

What type of speed/conditioning work do players do?

  • Max velocity training up to 70m with a Work: Rest Ratio 1:8-16
  • Repeated sprints over 10-30m with a Work: Rest Ratio 1:1-6
  • Accelerations/Decelerations/COD using a lot of small sided games and reactive drills

What’s some example drills of speed and conditioning for a player?

Speed              Day 1                                     Day 2

Wk 1              Max Velocity                         Incline Sprints

Wk 2              Max Velocity                         Incline Sprints

Wk 3              Max Velocity                         Incline Sprints

Wk 4              Resisted Sprints                   Repeated Sprints

Wk 5              Resisted Sprints                   Repeated Sprints

Wk 6              Resisted Sprints                   Repeated Sprints

            Conditioning Day 1                                     Day 2

Wk 1               60/30 @ 90%/30% MAS      Small Sided Games

Wk 2               60/30 @ 95%/30% MAS      Small Sided Games

Wk 3               60/30 @ 100%/30% MAS    Small Sided Games

Wk 4               30/30 @ 110%                    Small Sided Games

Wk 5               30/15 @ 110%                      Small Sided Games

Wk 6               30/15 @ 115%                      Small Sided Games

Top tips for an amateur player looking to take their game to the next level?

  • Make training specific to the demands of the game
  • Don’t forget to improve skills as well as your physical capabilities
  • Rest and recovery is vital


Improve your Rugby Sevens game with a professional

An accredited exercise professional can assist you by guiding you through an individualised, safe and evidence-based exercise program to “bulletproof” your workouts. Get in touch with your local exercise expert today.



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Written by Exercise Right. We have partnered with Nike Australia Pty Ltd for this article series.

The views expressed in this article, unless otherwise cited, are exclusively those of the author, Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA). ESSA is a professional organisation committed to establishing, promoting and defending the career paths of tertiary trained exercise and sports science practitioners.

Nike had no role in the collection, analysis, or interpretation of data or research or the writing of this article.