Former England centre Ayoola Erinle and record league try scorer Phil Chesters joined the England Sevens squad this week as they began the build-up to the next two legs of the HSBC Sevens World Series leaders.
England top the rankings at the half-way mark with the Cathay Pacific Credit Suisse Hong Kong Sevens on March 25-27 followed by the Adelaide Sevens on April 2-3.
Head coach Ben Ryan will need to make at least one change to the squad on duty last month in Wellington and Las Vegas as Birmingham and Solihull wing Simon Hunt is staying with his club for the Championship play-offs.
Isoa Damudamu, who suffered a shoulder injury in Wellington, was replaced at the USA Sevens by Mark Odejobi (Esher & Brunel University).
Erinle, capped by England 16 months ago, trained alongside Ealing Trailfinders wing Chesters and former England Sevens wing Uche Oduoza as well as London Irish duo Marcus Watson and Sam Edgerley for this week’s sessions at the Lensbury Club.
Ryan will also have Ollie Lindsay-Hague available now the Harlequins utility back has recovered from injury sustained in George in the second leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series in December.
Former London Wasps and Leicester Tigers centre Erinle appeared for England Saxons and England Sevens before winning two caps against Australia and New Zealand in 2009 and is available again following the end of his spell at Biarritz.
He trained on the same day as Chesters, who overhauled Chris Ashton’s National League record of 39 tries in a season last month and now has 42 in 21 appearances for leaders Ealing in National League Two South.
“We’ve been keeping tabs on a number of different players for different reasons,” said Ryan.
“Uche Oduoza is returning to full fitness now after a knee reconstruction, Ayoola is on our radar again now he’s back in London and we wanted to run the rule over him, and Phil has been breaking records so it was a great opportunity to see the standard he’s at.
“We’ve also had the two young London Irish lads in who have both played for England’s age group teams and it’s important we keep looking at a wider pool of players as we move forwards.”
England and New Zealand are level on 80 points at the top of the HSBC Sevens World Series – England lead on the number of finals reached – ahead of Fiji, Samoa and South Africa.
Two more successful tournaments will see England back on home soil with a chance of clinching a first ever series victory when the global tour makes its final two stops at the Emirates Airline London Sevens (May 21-22) and the Emirates Airline Edinburgh Sevens (May 28-29).
“We’ve reached a pivotal point in the series because we don’t want to come back to London playing catch-up,” said Ryan.
“We need really strong performances in the next two tournaments and we haven’t pulled up any trees in the last few years at Adelaide or Hong Kong despite some good individual wins.”
England will name their squad for Hong Kong and Adelaide at the end of next week.