By Alan Dymock
ENGLAND SEVENS face a quick turnaround as they look to replace head coach Ben Ryan, who stepped down from his role with the RFU this week.
Leaving after seven years in the post, Ryan steps aside as leader of the full-time, fully professional outfit, as does assistant Russell Earnshaw who will take up a position with Eastbourne College teaching Economics. However, Ryan has said he will assist the RFU in selecting his successor.
This is the issue. England begin their assault on the HSBC Sevens Series in October and already the players will be preparing for the upcoming season, with Earnshaw rumoured to be coming back for a brief stint in camp to help the players get ready. The team may be undercooked or worse, confused heading into the first tournament in Australia, should there not be a successor selected speedily.
One man dropping hints like lead-laced bags for life is Mike Friday, Ryan’s predecessor. Friday recently resigned his post with the Kenyan national sevens side having led them to the semi-finals of the Sevens World Cup, only half-way through his two-year contract with the team. Aside from his declaration in favour of returning to coach England, a team he left in 2006, he is said to be hot property with several other unions looking at him.
If Ryan is advising the RFU and the former coach is on a shortlist, it will be interesting to see how the interaction between Ryan and Friday pans out. After all, if reports are true about head coach of South Africa’s Blitzbokke Paul Treu seeing his time run out in October, maybe England would be willing to hang about for him, provided he does not take on the vacant South Africa U20s head coach role or slip into the Kenyan role that Friday has left.
A role with England would be seen as a desirable position for any Sevens coach with the team set to compete in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 and with the bulk of the squad and head coach likely to be involved with the GB Olympics team as Sevens takes its bow at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Meanwhile, England head coach Stuart Lancaster has suggested that Ryan has plenty of options in front of him once he completely vacates Twickenham, owing to the successes he oversaw with England Sevens.
“Ben’s made a major impact on and off the field in developing our sevens programme and making sure the team achieves high standards in international competition,” Lancaster said.
“He’s a first-class coach who has helped his players fulfill their potential and many of them have benefited from his guidance on the way to senior international honours [11 in total]. I’m sure he will go on to achieve more great things and wish him all the best for his future career.”