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7s-Specific Training Key For UNCW

College Men

7s-Specific Training Key For UNCW

Tom McCrimmon in action for UNCW.

As teams start transitioning from 15s rugby to 7s, so too does their focus in practice and on the pitch.

Gone are the days of practicing scrumming drills with the forwards or splitting up into forwards and backs to work on their respected skill sets. Instead, teams are coming together to work as one congruent group to capitalize on the vast amount of open space 7s provides. 

In the South, University of North Carolina Wilmington is preparing to take the Southern Rugby Conference by storm. To help them prepare, Head Coach Jeremy Tominack is focusing on open-field tackles and tracking. 

“Our biggest focus is getting used to making solo open field tackles so you don’t get run over and get ‘YouTubed,'" Tominack said. "Also, trusting your teammate to make that tackle is imperative. We don’t want to get bunched up and give the other team easy, open lanes to pounce through." 

However, before the tackle can be made, a player must track his defensive opponent to be in position to make the open field tackle. UNCW has been working diligently on this in practice to make sure they don’t give their opponents any gifts.  

Just as important as tracking and making open field tackles is the conditioning of a 7s team. With only 14 players on a pitch that usually fields 30 players, the energy output that goes into playing one 14-minute game is about intense as it gets. In an average game, a 7s player runs approximately 5,186 feet, about the distance of a mile. Not only is most of this distance covered by sprinting and jogging, but the players heart rates stay above 80% of their maximal heart rate for 75% of the game. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22158098)

Tominack summed it up perfectly: “Sevens rugby can be a terrible experience if you are out of shape. I say, how fast are you in the last two minutes of a game?” 

To prepare for the physical demands of 7s, the Seahawks condition at the beginning of every practice and try to incorporate some sort of conditioning into each of the drills they work on in practice. They also finish practice with conditioning – something that could give UNCW the extra edge against their opponents. 

Along with open field tackling and conditioning, UNCW has be focusing on agility and footwork. This Spring, the Seahawks brought in Beast Behavior Performance, which is run by a former Wake Forest football running-back.

“During the first hour of every practice for six weeks straight, Terrance put the team through a demanding footwork, speed, and endurance clinic that improved our athlete’s agility and conditioning,” said Tominack. With Beast Behavior Performance in their corner, the Seahawks are looking to zig-zag through their opponents in a quest for a championship. 

To come together as a cohesive group and practice these individual skills, Tominack said he likes the team to play as much 7s as possible. Whether they play in practice or in their off days, the Seahawks relish every chance they get to hone their skills. Tominack likened 7s to a game of pickup basketball, saying it’s quick and easy to get a game going at any time. Beach 7s is a favorite amongst the players and adds the extra element of wading through the sand. And it’s not just the speedy backs that are participating in 7s, Tominack said he likes everyone to get involved. “Seems like our props that practice 7s produce ‘fat guy’ scores in Fall 15s.” 

Hoping to make it to a third straight trip to the 7s National Championship, UNCW is led by veteran players Tom McCrimmon, Jack Nolan, Jon Diaz, Ryan Juliano and Philip Renaghan. Flyhalf Ellery Hodson, who grew up in New Zealand, continues to use his skill and rugby IQ to help lead the Seahawks and give them a different perspective on the game. With these veteran players and a cast of hungry novice 7s players, UNCW is ready to make themselves a force to be reckoned with. 

-- Kevin Simoni