England face USA, Samoa and Argentina on Friday’s first day of the Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens in Port Elizabeth
WELL, it certainly wasn’t a short trip across to Port Elizabeth! An early rise on Sunday led to all the teams enduring 17 hours of travel to get to our final resting point in the Eastern Cape.
For us, it was a little more forgiving as we had a bit of a spring in our step. Our win in Dubai has been well documented and needless to say I was very proud of the lads and their application to the cause all weekend.
We had the best defence in the tournament and scored 25 very good tries which all combined to make sure we successfully defended the title we won dramatically last year. Although I would have liked us to have taken more of our chances in the New Zealand quarter final, the win there gave us some good momentum and our performances became more assured after that.
Considering this was after a trip to Australia seven days earlier plus the tournament last weekend – the team were physically in great shape.
We broke a few of our ‘speed’ records, measured on our in game GPS. Mat Turner was clocked at 38kmh and our wingers all hit over 35kmh consistently. On top of this, our collective average speeds for the games were over 30kmh. In layman’s terms that’s fast! It’s also brilliant from a speed endurance point of view and Brett Davison, who oversees our conditioning, has got them in top shape to play the way we want.
However, it was the style the lads are beginning to play that gave us the win. Our tackle completion rates were great and really left the opposition with few chances. We conceded 48 points less than we did in winning Dubai last year. As one of work-ons from last season that was especially pleasing. The attack is also starting to gel as we want and the back-line really fired this weekend to back up the titanic work the forwards are doing.
Enough of patting ourselves on the back though – we all know we can play better and we also know we need to be a consistently winning side.
As I have mentioned, our style is evolving and by no means anywhere near the finished product yet. When you truly can see an England Sevens ‘style’ emerge then we will be part of the way there and there is still a lot going on in training that hasn’t managed to make its way into tournaments yet.
Twinned with so many sides getting better, it’s a hugely competitive HSBC Sevens World Series this year. I loved some of the French attacking play and Fiji also played some sublime stuff so we know there is a lot of work to do.
This week in Port Elizabeth has been all about getting the squad’s energy back up to perform to the same levels as last week. Tournaments take a huge toll on the body and with our third in as many weeks and the enormous amount of travel we have had, it really will be a case of having the mental and physical durability to finish this month away on top form.
By the end of this trip we will have clocked up over 50km in training, over a dozen swim sessions and around eight weights sessions as well as 18 games covering around 40km. That is phenomenal and I’m sure all the sides have similar statistics.
So, sure, we are all looking to having Christmas back at home and a well-earned rest. But before that the only thing on any of our minds this weekend will be to continue our ascent on the field and work our socks off in what is a very, very hard group with Argentina, Samoa and the USA on Friday. Come on England!
You can follow Ben Ryan and the England Sevens team on twitter @benjaminryan