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Saint marches on Manchester

24 July 2002

Marcus St Hilaire has revealed his delight at being selected in the England Sevens squad for the Commonwealth Games.
Just weeks after being drafted in by coach Joe Lydon, the Leeds Rhinos Super League player has made the final 12, captained by Phil Greening, that will go for gold in Manchester next week.
"It's a great privilege to make the final 12. I have been a little bit nervous not knowing whether I would be in or not but now that I am, there is still a lot of work to do," said the 25-yerar-old St Hilaire.
The Rhinos have released Huddersfield-born St Hilaire to prepare and play in the tournament and he added: "It's all happened very quickly in the last three weeks. Up until the trial games in Coventry two weeks ago I had never played a game of rugby union in my life! It's been an easier transition for me to play sevens rather than 15s and having Joe (Lydon) and Damian McGrath (assistant coach), who both have rugby league backgrounds, has helped me adapt."
Lydon, who admitted it was a tough choice to cut Saracens' Richard Haughton and Gloucester's James Simpson-Daniel from the squad, added: "Marcus has the right kind of approach to the game - he is willing to learn. It was always going to be a steep learning curve but he has the ability and he has got on with it."
St Hilaire will be joined by former Super League rival Henry Paul, now playing for Gloucester in the Zurich Premiership after switching from Bradford Bulls less than a year ago, and he said: "I am really excited. The Commonwealth Games is huge and there is so much going on. We have a squad with a lot of talent and potential. We have just got to make sure we keep the focus on our job and not get too carried away."
Greening, a member of the side that won the Hong Kong Sevens in March, added: "Winning the Commonwealth Games would be fantastic, not just for us as individuals but for rugby as a sport. Just to be involved in such an event is going to be very special - as a rugby player you don't often get the chance to rub shoulders with world class athletes from other sports."
With Kenya, the Cook Islands and Samoa in their pool, England - the No 3 seeds - have a good chance of reaching the knockout stages and Greening added: "We have a very strong squad and I would have hated to have to pick 12 out of a squad of 20 let alone 14! We have worked really hard during the season to get where we are and though we have got a reasonable draw it is still a tough group."
For Pat Sanderson, who grew up in Manchester, it is a dream come true after an injury-hampered season and the Harlequins back row said: "The sense of the occasion is beginning to build up. I am really happy to be involved after the season I have had and to be playing in front of my family and friends will be fantastic."


ENGLAND COMMONWEALTH GAMES SEVENS SQUAD


Phil Greening  (capt) (London Wasps)

Simon Amor   (Gloucester)

Geoff Appleford  (London Irish)

Nick Duncombe  (NEC Harlequins)

Ben Gollings   (NEC Harlequins)

Josh Lewsey   (London Wasps)

Henry Paul   (Gloucester)

Tony Roques   (Saracens)

Pat Sanderson   (NEC Harlequins)

Paul Sampson   (London Wasps)

Marcus St Hilaire  (Leeds Rhinos)

Rob Thirlby   (Bath)