ENGLAND NAME their 12-man squad for the first leg of this season’s HSBC Sevens World Series.
The Gold Coast Sevens on October 13-14 is the first event of the new Olympic sport’s biggest ever season, which sees nine legs of the global series followed by the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow next June.
Head Coach Ben Ryan has the top two try-scorers in world sevens in the shape of Mathew Turner and Dan Norton in an experienced squad led by Rob Vickerman that contains 10 players who have won major international tournaments.
The England Sevens programme has expanded to 19 full-time players this season, increasing strength in depth and competition for places, and making selection for Ryan tougher than ever.
“Every training session is very competitive and everyone pushes each other on – we’ve had a fair bit of niggle over the last few months, too, because everyone’s been itching to get on the plane,” said Ryan. “That competition for places has given us some very healthy dilemmas when it comes to selection and we’ve left players out who will have an important role to play in our title bid.
Among those who miss out on the trip to Australia is former World Player of the Year Ollie Phillips.
“One or two injuries have put him a couple of weeks away from his absolute best but he’ll be in great shape by the time we get to legs two and three in Dubai and Port Elizabeth,” Ryan added.
There are two changes to the squad that appeared in the Marriott London Sevens, the final leg of last season’s series. Returning from injury are playmakers Marcus Watson and Christian Lewis-Pratt – who both featured in England’s Dubai tournament victory last year – with Sam Edgerley and Dan Bibby making way.
England, who finished third in last year’s series, face Kenya, Spain and Samoa on the Gold Coast opening day at Skilled Park with Australia and Fiji potential quarter final opponents.
John Brake, Chris Brightwell, Chris Cracknell, Christian Lewis-Pratt, Tom Mitchell, Dan Norton, Tom Powell, James Rodwell, Mathew Turner, Rob Vickerman (Captain), Marcus Watson, Jeff Williams