x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Sevens leads the way in newest techniques

There was a time in the not too distant past when the game-plan for international sevens meant selecting three strong forwards, plus four fast runners outside them, and away they went.

DUBAI // There was a time in the not too distant past when the game-plan for international sevens meant selecting three strong forwards, plus four fast runners outside them, and away they went.

If the players steered clear of fast-food while on tour, that was just a bonus.

To say the modern game reflects a more scientific approach is understating the point.

The abridged version of the game has become a laboratory where rugby's newest techniques are manufactured.

Paul Treu, South Africa's coach, will be able to explain tactical changes to his players this weekend with the visual aid of his iPad chalk-board.

He is not the only one looking for little advantages.

Two years ago, England's sevens team began tracking their players during training sessions using GPS technology.

That method has now permeated the game so deeply that the players in Martin Johnson's 15-a-side England team even wore the credit card-sized GPS monitors while playing in front of 80,000 people in the November internationals at Twickenham.

Now Ben Ryan, England's sevens coach, is pushing the boundaries again.

His latest innovation involves monitoring the sleep patterns of his players.

"We have just begun a research project into circadian rhythm, which is basically your internal body clock," said Ryan, who has been in charge of the England side since he replaced Mike Friday in 2007.

"We have profiles of all our players and know where their individual energy levels are during the day and night.

"It means you can change when you are training and you can know when players are at their best if you need to change them.

"It is becoming a science now, but you can't lose sight of the fact the main ingredient of sevens is making the right decision under pressure."