The Sweeper is a common role within 7s, a fast player who plays deeper than the rest of the defensive line to ‘sweep’ across and stop attackers who make a linebreak or who get around the outside. In 15s rugby, this role is played by the full back and by the scrum half.
Full backs have to maintain enough depth to cover kicks but also be ready to join the defensive line or get into a position to cover an outside break or linebreak elsewhere.
Scrum halves, patrolling just behind the main defensive line, are perfectly positioned to stop linebreaks or short kicks behind the defensive line.
It is important that they keep up with play, but also not over-run the play too much in the case of, say, an inside pass beating a defender who’s pinched in the ball carrier. Where kicks are concerned, it’s especially important that the sweepers read body language and conditions to anticipate kicks and position themselves accordingly. They should also work to support each other, in conjunction with the wings and any other players who can get back to help, to recover the ball and launch a counter attack.
The sweeper also needs to know under what conditions a Mark can be called when a kick is made into the defending team’s 22m area.