Please note that this news story is archived here for historical interest and refers to the London Sevens competition in 2003.
2008 Emirates Airline London Sevens competition
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ENGLAND are ready to build on the defence of their Hong Kong crown by capturing more titles in the IRB World Sevens Series.
Saracens wing Richard Haughton came off the bench to score two tries in the 22-17 win against New Zealand in the Hong Kong final in front of 40,000 fans.
His team won it the hard way - beating Australia, Fiji and New Zealand in the knock-out stages - to move into second place in the WSS rankings. The former Dorking player hopes they can continue to close the gap on New Zealand in the rankings at the season's two remaining tournaments in Cardiff and London.
The WSS concludes with the Emirates Airline London Sevens staged at Twickenham on June 6-7.
" There are still a few tournaments left in the series and I hope we can get to the finals and win. I think we need to give ourselves that goal," said Haughton.
" There should be a great atmosphere at Twickenham for the London Sevens. There are always a lot of Kiwis and Aussies who come along and I hope we get a lot of support from England fans."
This season England are closing in on world leaders New Zealand, beating them on the way to the Brisbane title and again in the final at Hong Kong. The key, according to Haughton, is a tight-knit squad that has developed a range of attacking options under coach Joe Lydon.
Haughton and young NEC Harlequins wing Ugo Monye - seven tries in his first Hong Kong tournament - provide the pace out wide, while Henry Paul is a commanding influence in midfield.
Mix in the likes of experienced skipper Phil Greening, combative Saracens flanker Tony Roques, Gloucester scrum half Simon Amor and Rotherham Sevens expert Rob Thirlby and you have a potent combination.
" Last year we did lots of training. This year there's more time to talk about the game," said Haughton.
" It's been a great experience in that way and having Henry Paul involved brings a lot of experience. We all hang out in the hotels together, play games together and that's brought us all together much closer as a squad.
" Our understanding is better of how we play and the ability we have. With Ugo and me we can go round the outside of teams, then Henry Paul can take them on in the middle and we've got Phil Greening taking the ball up. We've developed as the all-round package.
" If another team is looking at us they can't say we can defend against them in a certain way. Now we've got lots of attacking options."
Some of England's brightest talents, like James Simpson-Daniel and Josh Lewsey, honed their skills in Lydon's team last season.
In the shortened form of the game there may be plenty of room to move but there is nowhere to hide. Skill levels have to be high and their execution first class - or the opposition are stealing away to score at the other end of the pitch. Players like Haughton and now Monye have coped with that steep learning curve to the obvious benefit of the team.
" Sevens is so important because of the way it improves basic skills," adds Haughton. "If you mess up, it's obvious you've messed up. You need to be able to beat people one on one with pace, or with a step, or going one way then the other. "It's been great to see Ugo coming through this season. It's very important to have competition within the squad and I think we're all playing better for it."
- England's win at the Credit Suisse First Boston Hong Kong Sevens has moved them into second place in the IRB Sevens standings. Top 10: New Zealand 92, England 76, Fiji 74, Australia 52, South Africa 50, Samoa 44, France 20, Argentina 20, Kenya 8, Tonga 8.
- The Emirates Airlines London Sevens takes place on June 6-7. Tickets cost �7 to �15 (Day 1) and �7 to �25 (Day 2) and can be booked through Ticketmaster at www.ticketmaster.co.uk To book two-day tickets call Ticketmaster on 0870 4447711.