England Sevens have named an experienced squad, including the majority of the players who lifted the first silverware of the 2010-11 season, for the start of the HSBC Sevens World Series in Australia.
Eight of the 2010 Dubai title winners are in the 12-man group heading for the new opening venue of the expanded global event on the Gold Coast on November 25-26.
The squad is strengthened by new signings Rob Vickerman and Chris Brightwell, who have joined from Aviva Premiership outfits Newcastle Falcons and Sale Sharks respectively.
Also called up are wing Nick Royle, awarded a full-time contract after scoring 35 tries in this summer’s four FIRA-AER European Grand Prix tournaments, and former England Under 20 wing Marcus Watson from Saracens, who made his international sevens debut in Adelaide this year.
Head coach Ben Ryan also welcomes back Isoa Damudamu (British Army) – out of action since last February’s NZI Sevens in Wellington – and has some significant names in reserve who may yet feature in the second and third legs of the series.
Last year’s Dubai title-winner Ollie Lindsay-Hague and young playmaker Christian Lewis-Pratt complete their rehabilitation from injury shortly. Ryan also has full-timer Simon Hunt, former captain Andy Vilk (Rugby Lions), ex-England U18 wing Sam Edgerley (Esher) and UWIC student Dan Bibby standing by if he needs to make further call-ups for Dubai (December 2-3) or Port Elizabeth (December 9-10).
The start of the series will see the squad travel more than 33,000 miles on eight separate flights across a dozen time zones in less than four weeks. The bulk of the 18 games they face will played in temperatures above 30 degrees centigrade.
But England – who finished third overall in 2010-11 – have a series of European tournaments behind them and 12 weeks of intense pre-season activity means they are in good shape ahead of their opening pool matches against Scotland, Wales and Tonga.
“Selection for the start of the HSBC Sevens World Series has been different because there are three tournaments in a row but it is important to get off to a flying start in Australia and I’m delighted we’ve been able to pick our best available 12,” said Ryan. “They’ve all been capped at international sevens level before and they’re all used to the twists and turns of the tournaments and the travel involved.
“We’ve certainly worked very hard off the field – as all our opponents will have done– and we’re excited about the start of the series. We’re looking forward to playing some entertaining rugby and taking our performance levels forward throughout the season.
“We face some difficult games with our local rivals in our group. We all know how hard they’ll be to beat and Tonga have beaten us in Australia in the past too. It’s a tough draw but we know what we have to do.”
England head for Australia next week and complete the build-up with four days of work in Sydney before travelling to Queensland on November 21.
The HSBC Sevens World Series has expanded to nine tournaments this season with a new stage in Tokyo and new venues in Australia, South Africa – at Port Elizabeth – and the London Sevens at Twickenham on May 12-13 has shifted in the calendar to become the series finale.
Tickets are now available for the London Sevens weekend on May 12 and 13 May 2012, with weekend passes starting from £30, single day tickets from £18 and kids tickets at £5 each day. Visit Ticketmaster.co.uk or call 0844 847 2492. (Tickets are subject to availability and booking fees apply).