One tournament down, not the perfect start but plenty of positives for England to carry through to this weekend in Dubai. That’s not a losing coach clutching at straws but one who was obviously disappointed the side didn’t win the opening leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series on the Gold Coast at the weekend. We were close to getting it right and winning our quarter final against New Zealand.
The opening leg of the series had quite a few changes. The draw was different, lots of new officials and five substitutions rather than three all gave the two days of competition a slightly different feel. It’s pretty clear a lot of resource has been put into all the different teams by their respective unions. Where once, full-time sevens players were a rare thing, now they seem commonplace and the standard again rises.
So, as we all swoop into Dubai, it’s a case of getting the team fully fit, having some good training sessions, looking at our performance and the opposition’s and bouncing into the weekend.
Unfortunately John Brake fractured his hand two days before the Gold Coast Sevens. He managed to play through the weekend, but now needs to have a week off before Port Elizabeth, so he is unavailable this weekend.
Two other players, Dan Norton and Tom Powell, also suffered injuries on Day One, leaving us a bit light, but our medics have done a fine job and the players have been meticulous with their rehab, icing and so on, so that they both look 100 per cent this weekend.
We had always planned to fly in two other players so I now have 13 players to select a dozen from. That means the training has been competitive and the team have reacted really positively to last weekend.
Their response has been to learn from the things that didn’t go as well and keep improving on the good things to put us in a better place on Friday for our first pool match. That’s all you can ask for as a coach and I’m delighted with their attitude at the moment.
So, what our hopes this weekend? Well, Dubai has been good to us recently and in our last four visits here we have reached two finals and two semi finals. The support is fantastic and generally the conditions are near perfect with normally just one or two games in the very hottest parts of the weekend to contend with.
Our style is still evolving and certainly some of the pieces of how we play have yet to surface in any consistent manner on the field. It’s a simple yet different approach we want to take and really absolutely everything depends on great communication and decision making.
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Those two critical areas in any team sports are ones you can really get your teeth into as coach and player with lots of small sided games and practices in training and as much of your programme on the field deliberately slanted towards game understanding.
It’s certainly going to be a long season and as we have seen already, it’s also not going to be all sweetness and light, but with 48 games to go and eight more tournaments to compete in, the series is only just beginning to crank into action. There is lots of time to make an impact and no better place than Dubai to give us some momentum.