Wednesday 21st December 2005
The England Sevens team have been seeded top in the next two legs of the IRB Sevens - in Wellington and Los Angeles. The seedings are based on team performance in the last six tournaments and England's recent win in the Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens, followed by a Cup semi final place in George, means that they head to New Zealand as favourites.
However, England Sevens Coach Mike Friday, knows that Wellington is a tough place to play wherever you are seeded, "Wellington is a notoriously difficult place for any England side to play and it proves great experience for the young players to have to perform in such a hostile environment as a packed Westpac stadium. It is an exciting tournament with a sell out crowd but we face a tough pool with Australia and Scotland - both squads who are improving at every tournament and are very capable of upsetting the so called favourites.
"I was really impressed by England's performance in the first two tournaments this season, especially as so many of them were making their England Sevens debuts. The whole squad gelled fantastically well, and we had some great individual performances from the likes of Andy Vilk (Northampton Saints), Ben Foden (Sale Sharks) and Luke Narraway (Gloucester). These next two tournaments will offer a different kind of experience for the youngsters - they will face the physical challenge of travelling through several time zones and coping with jetlag as well as the mental challenge of playing infront of such a hostile crowd. Their core skills are stretched in sevens with fewer players on the pitch and their individual performances are really scrutinized by the large, noisy crowd. All of this experience is extremely beneficial to the young players as they progress along the elite player pathway."
New Zealand have proved unbeatable in the last three AXA International New Zealand Sevens and following a disappointing start to their 2005/06 season Mike Friday believes they will want to impress the home crowd. "New Zealand have won the IRB Sevens for the last six years so just because they have had a surprisingly disappointing start to this season they should never be underestimated, particularly not at their home tournament. 30,000 fans flock to the tournament all cheering for the kiwis. The New Zealand Coach Gordon Tietjens is bound to unearth some new home grown talent at this tournament ahead of their defence of their Commonwealth Gold title.
Friday continued, "These two tournaments are scheduled at an important stage in the northern hemisphere calendar with the start of the RBS 6 Nations and just as the battle for the Guinness Premiership is hotting up. I work closely with the premiership Directors of Rugby and am grateful for their understanding of the important role sevens can play in a player's development."
England are currently ranked second in the IRB Sevens table just four points behind Fiji, and depart for Wellington at the end of January. Friday admits that Wellington and Los Angeles will provide a great opportunity for players to impress ahead of the Commonwealth Games in March. Friday said, "These are the last two tournaments before everyone focuses on the Commonwealth Games in Australia. We have a training camp for the whole squad in mid January but these two legs of the series will be a good opportunity for some of the youngsters to gain some valuable experience ahead of the Commonwealth Games. "
England will announce the 12 man squad for Wellington and Los Angeles in January.
Pools for AXA New Zealand International Sevens (3rd & 4th February 2006):
Papua New Guinea
Pools for USA Sevens (11th & 12th February 2005):
England's recent performance:
George: England reached the Cup semi final against Fiji
Dubai: England beat Fiji in the Cup Final to win tournament
Paris: England reached the Plate Final against South Africa
London: England reached the Cup final against South Africa
Singapore: England reached the Cup Final against New Zealand
Los Angeles: England reached the Cup Semi Final against Argentina