Need for speed | Scots innovate to fast-track player development

Need for speed | Scots innovate to fast-track player development

The nation that brought the world the abbreviated rugby sevens game some 134 years ago has adapted the laws of the 15-a-side game to fast-track the development of BT Sport Academy players’ speed and skills under pressure.

The innovative new format was devised by Scottish Rugby’s BT Sport Academy, coach development and refereeing departments and will follow a similar schedule to a single-day sevens tournament on the indoor synthetic surface at Oriam (Scotland’s Sports Performance Centre) on Wednesday 18 October (admission free).

The 40-minute matches (20-minute halves) feature several new law adaptations to promote high-tempo, dynamic rugby in line with Scottish Rugby’s Technical Blueprint to develop fast, attack-minded players.

Adaptations (full list below) include insisting all restarts land in a competitive range (to develop aerial skills through a regular challenge for possession), a number of restrictions on mauling and kicking from hand in open play, and 30-second time limits on lineouts and scrum set-ups to ensure the tempo of the game remains as high as possible.

Teams will then take a break for rest, recovery, refuelling and analysis between games, before returning to the field.

Scottish Rugby Head of Academy and Performance Programmes, Stephen Gemmell, said: “A lot of work has gone in to adapt the game to help create more opportunities to put the skills and conditioning of our most promising players under pressure, while also allowing for more thorough internal benchmarking and additional coaching opportunities for performance-focused coaches.”

The new addition to the regional fixture calendar also marks the return of the U19 age band to the Scottish performance pathway, with the introduction of competitive fixtures at U17 in the spring accompanying the next stage of regional fixtures throughout October.

The top performers from the four BT Sport Academy regions of Borders & East Lothian and Edinburgh (representing East), and Caledonia and Glasgow & the West (representing West) will be selected and pitched against one another to provide another competitive test bed for potential young Scotland players to prove themselves ahead of their respective age-grade squad selections, alongside those identified through Scottish Rugby’s exile player programme.

Gemmell, who first joined Scottish Rugby as a development officer in 1994 and spent five years as Scotland 7s head coach, believes these developments are testimony to the growing quality and quantity of young rugby players in Scotland.

He said: “In the 20 years I’ve been with Scottish Rugby we have never had the player numbers of sufficient quality or quantity to merit competitive, regional fixtures at every age-grade from U16 through to U20

“It’s a credit to the work done in clubs and schools across the country as well as in the BT Sport Academy.”


Sunday 15 October at Kings Park, Aberdeen
East U16 v West U16 (kick-off 12.30pm)
East U18 v West U18 (kick-off 2.15pm)

Wednesday 18 October at Oriam, Edinburgh
BT Sport Academy U19
Game 1 (kick-off 11am)
Game 2 (kick-off 11.50am)
Game 3 (kick-off 1.30pm)
Game 4 (kick-off 2.20pm)
Game 5 (kick-off 4pm)
Game 6 (kick-off 4.50pm)

Sunday 22 October at Inverleith, Edinburgh
East U16 v West U16 (kick-off 12.30pm)
East U18 v West U18 (kick-off 2.15pm)

Sun 26 November at Oriam, Edinburgh
East U20 v West U20 (kick-off 5pm)

Weekend of 16/17/18 February at Oriam, Edinburgh
East U18 & Welsh Regions U18 (3 Teams)
West U18 & Welsh Regions U18 (3 Teams)

Wednesday 4 April at Boadwood, Glasgow
Glasgow U17 v Caledonia U17 (kick-off 1.30pm)
Edinburgh U17 v The Borders & East Lothian U17

Wednesday 11 April at a Borders & East Lothian TBC
Winners U17 v Winners U17 (kick-off 1.30pm)
Losers U17 v Losers U17 (3pm)

Full list of law adaptions

Game AdaptationRationaleSanction
Squads of 26. Players play 90-minutes max World Rugby game time guidelinesN/A
No tactical subs until half-timeIncrease ball in play time / intensityN/A
Restarts from half-way must land between opposition 10m and 22m lineDevelop aerial skills / Challenge for PossessionFree kick at half- way
22 restarts must land in own halfDevelop aerial skills / Challenge for PossessionFree kick at half- way
Drop kick conversions. Opposition don’t have to retire the behind postsIncrease ball in play time / intensityN/A
No drop kicks for goal in open playIncrease ball in play time / intensityN/A
No goal kicks or scrum option from a penalty or free kickIncrease ball in play time / intensityN/A
No open field kicks straight out of play except for full penaltyIncrease ball in play / promote counter attack / promote kicking into spaceFree kick where ball was kicked
30 seconds allowed for attacking team to throw in at the lineoutIncrease ball in play time / intensityFree kick on 15m line
No huddles or pre-calling at lineoutDevelop adaptive lineout calling and defensive optionsFree kick on 15m line
Maximum one driving maul from lineout per halfPromote delivery off the top and play off 10Free kick on 15m line
30 seconds to set up scrum after infringementIncrease ball in play time / intensityFree kick
Zero Tolerance for scrum infringement (no resets)Promote individual scrum technique & process (body position / effective binding / stay square)Free kick (repeated infringing gives penalty and yellow card
No direct coaching intervention during play either by coaches / medics / water carriersPromote adaptive play & decision making under pressureN/A
Team physio and water carrier only in technical areaPromote adaptive play and decision making under pressureN/A
Yellow Cards = eight minutesPromote positive playN/A

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