This article looks at the position and role of the winger in sevens rugby.
I’ve got some great video clips to illustrate the diverse attacking skills of Wingers in sevens rugby.
What Is A Winger In Rugby Sevens?
Wingers in sevens rugby are typically the fastest players in a squad with high acceleration to reach peak speed. Wingers usually stay wide in attack as their teammates seek to pass them the ball with space to run for the try line.
They are often the finishers of attacking moves from set-piece plays.
Attacking As A Winger In Sevens Rugby
Wingers are typically the fastest players on the pitch. The other six players in the team are trying to make a little space to allow them to speed down the touchline to score a try.
Paradoxically, being a winger in sevens requires a little more patience than some of the other positions. If the winger is going to be on the end of an attacking move flowing across the pitch, they have to hold their depth and hug the touchline.
In some games, wingers are going to get few touches of the ball. They have to be patient as they watch moves break down and their teammates get tackled. Eventually, the ball will come their way and they have to make their few chances count.
Running lines infield
It’s a good idea when starting out in sevens to play several positions. Wingers need to anticipate the next moves in open play, so they can leave the touchline and make an impact further infield.
Take a look at this South African interplay between fly-half, center, and wing. It’s the winger who scores the try but he does so by taking a fantastic line up the center of the field. This is after his teammates in the backs have done trojan work out near the touchline.
Top Speed And Acceleration
A key trait for a winger in sevens is the ability to accelerate from a standing start to top-end speed. And that top speed can clock in at over 10 meters per second on the field.
USA Eagles winger Carlin Isles competed at an athletic meet in 2016. He ran the 100m in 10.15 seconds.
Remember, that was a massive year for Rugby Sevens with the introduction of the sport at the Rio Olympics. Carlin was also training for a contact sport – not the kind of drills that sprinters usually practice!
Of course, sevens wingers aren’t sprinting down the line at all times. Sometimes, their high acceleration to top speed only needs a few seconds to get clear of defenders. Then they can stroll over the try line and nonchalantly dot the ball down.
Take a look at Irish speedster Jordan Conroy. He picks up the ball at the base of a ruck and takes off at an arcing run. Once he’s rounded the defender, accelerating all the time, he can taper off as he approaches the line.
Wingers As Try Finishers
Eddie Jones, coach of the fifteen-a-side England rugby team, uses the term “finishers” for the substitutes who come on late in the game. But that’s not what I’m talking about here.
I’m talking about finishing tries. All players love an easy run-in to cross the line unopposed. Unfortunately, defenders have different goals.
Wingers may have to fight hard to ground the ball while a defender is trying to tackle them over the sideline and into touch. This doesn’t just require brute strength. It also requires the agility of an eel!
Watch Ireland winger Jordan Conroy wriggle and reach his way to a try with two defenders making pretty good tackle attempts!
By the way, it looks to me like the pass to the winger was a little forward. But let’s not mention it! This is the tournament where Ireland qualified for a spot on the World Series for the first time in their history. And it was with no small thanks to their try-scoring machine on the wing.
Breaking Tackles At Speed
Wingers need to be elusive runners with the ability to jink and sidestep their opponents. But when they’re racing at top speed, they also need strength and balance to hand off would-be tacklers.
The next clip shows Fiji winger Napolioni Bolaca showing off a wide range of skills. First, he takes the kick-off, which his team regathers.
As the play moves on, Bolaca has swept across the field to the far touchline. Watch his skills to shake off two tacklers.
Can Wingers Move From Fifteens Rugby To Sevens?
Fifteen-a-side wingers need top speed too, and many players switch between the two codes.
Although a sevens winger will sometimes kick and chase the ball, they do far less kicking than in the fifteens game. Plenty of wingers I know are very appreciative of this!
What Number Does A Winger Wear In Sevens?
If you want fifteen-a-side rugby, you probably know that the two starting wingers wear the 11 and 14 shirts on the left and right wings respectively.
However, the sevens version of the sport doesn’t have allocated numbers for team positions. The only official requirement is that a squad uses numbers one through twelve on their jerseys.
This means that a wing can be wearing any number (from 1 to 12) when they take to the pitch.
Other Positions In 7s
We have separate articles on all the positions in the game with video examples of the best stars in action. Check out our overview on roles and positions in 7s rugby which has links to each article.