Meet the all-time scorer in men's sevens series history
IT WASN’T until he reached 100 tries on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series that England’s Dan Norton realised he might be alright at finishing.
“It was never part of the goal from the start,” says Norton, the all-time leading men’s try-scorer on the series with 354.
“When I saw Ben Gollings the first few years (that Norton played) chasing Santiago Gómez Cora, that brought to light the whole goal. But it didn’t really kick in until I got to 100 tries, around 2013 or 2014. Gómez Cora wasn’t the biggest but he had amazing feet, he was quick and he had this finishing ability.
“In my first or second season, (former England coach) Ben Ryan said, ‘Watch this guy, he’s amazing.’ It was not only the way he beat players but the opportunities he created to kick for himself, which is something I’ve sort of incorporated into my game, indirectly.”
Related: Olympic men’s sevens results
Not that Norton has ever pored over excessive amounts of video. He has learnt as his career has gone on, but he also understands himself well enough to know that he plays that bit better when he allows himself to rely on instincts too.
Norton is no stranger to 15s. At Bristol during a long spell in the Championship, he saw the side miss out on promotion and then squeeze their budgets. He reached a ‘fork in the road’ moment and with a choice between scorching across sunkissed Sydney or aquaplaning through Rotherham, he opted for sevens.
When the Olympics came on the horizon, it solidified his ambitions in the reduced format. Well over ten years in the system now, he appreciates how lucky he has been to get here – and what a ride it has been.
So is there a knack to scoring tries?
“It helps when you’re in a good team. England have big, fast ball-carriers and some silky ball players like Tom Mitchell, Dan Bibby and Ollie Lindsay-Hague. It’s about what they can give me and how I can help them. It’s something I enjoy; it’s become my point of difference. I’m enjoying the challenge of keeping the tally going as I enter the end of my career.
“A lot of these boys have been playing for a number of years. We understand this is probably our last dance, with the Olympics. But at the same time it’s nice to look back on the last ten years, see where the sport’s come from and being involved in hallmark games, Olympics, World Cups, things of that nature. That’s amazing. Different team-mates have come and gone and just sharing those moments, having a few beers under the sun in different countries, makes this whole job so much more enjoyable.”
When it’s all done, he may look into athletic training and speed coaching, but it’s not time yet.
Then there’s an Olympics, representing Team GB again. Norton likes Tokyo’s vibe. But if it was possible and Covid wasn’t an issue, you still wouldn’t catch the wing with a karaoke mic in his hand. He says that some guys love a sing-song, with “Harry Glover” a willing front man. He adds: “I’d rather let them embarrass themselves. I’m filming it, ordering a few beers, enjoying it for what it is.”
Let someone else enjoy the limelight for a while. Smart.
This feature appeared in Rugby World earlier in the year. Download the digital edition of Rugby World straight to your tablet or subscribe to the print edition to get the magazine delivered to your door.
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