By Alan Dymock
SPREADING GOSPEL is part of modern rugby some would have you believe. With several charities taking the game out East and tiny steps taken all the time to encourage more global participation, the hope is that rugby continues to grow.
Sevens is undoubtedly one of the most aggressively expanding sports out there and with the 2016 Rio Olympics looming large the race is on to take the truncated version of the game to farther flung places and always, always there are new ‘markets.’ No wonder, then, that several Brits have taken the game with them around the globe.
This week it was announced that Ben Ryan will become the new head coach of Fiji sevens on a three-year deal, taking the reigns at one of the most consistently exciting and competitive sides on the HSBC World Sevens Series circuit. Of course the ambitious coach may have one eye on the Olympics, but he has a team capable of taking him there anyway.
He is not the first to pack his truck and pop off to regions new. Mike Friday may be currently sitting on the coaching merry-go-round after leaving his post with Kenya, but he impressed while he was with the East African outfit. Many expected him to slot back into a role with England, but with Simon Amor taking up the role there are options for Friday to continue looking around.
Sounds like the old England crew have been getting out there, spreading their tentacles? Well, former captain Andy Vilk is coaching with the Italian national sevens side as well as playing for Calvisano and IRB sevens’ all-time top points scorer Ben Gollings is coaching Sri Lanka while also doing work with the Serevi business, which looks to grow rugby in North America.
Then there is Scotland’s Clark Laidlaw, son of Roy Laidlaw and cousin of Greig, has taken his experiences with sevens on the Borders circuit with Jed Forest and used them in his move to the Southern Hemisphere. Laidlaw has recently been linked, unsuccessfully, with roles with the Scotland sevens squad, but he has continued to work as the Wellington Hurricanes skills coach, after initially working with Taranaki.
New Zealand may be the reigning Sevens Series champions, but all around them the Brits are having an influence.