Thursday 7th December 2006
England have the talent to win this tournament says Friday
On the eve of the Emirates Airline George Sevens, England Sevens Coach Mike Friday was excited about the potential of his young England squad. England have only four players (Amor, Gollings, Vilk and Thirlby) with any real international sevens experience but Friday has been so impressed with the skills and attitude of all of his players that he can't wait for the tournament to begin. "In terms of talent we have the talented players to win this tournament. In terms of attitude and endeavour, we have that in bucket loads, but as always we will need a little luck. As happened last week we will make mistakes but the important thing is that those mistakes don't cost us games."
England face a tough pool in George with Wales, Portugal and Argentina on day one. Despite this, Friday is more excited about England's chances of winning in George than last week. "We went into Dubai with seven players who have never played in the international circuit. Those seven players better prepared for this weekend. We are up against very tough opposition with an experienced South African and Fijian side and we are in a tough pool, which will be our first challenge."
The squad, which included seven new caps, came fourth in last weekend's Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens, losing to eventual winners South Africa. Friday was pleased with the way the youngsters handled their disappointment and turned it into extra motivation for this tournament. "It has been a good week but also a tough week for them. Dealing with disappointment is very much part of a young player's learning curve. On reflection when we went through the tapes of the game we saw how much we controlled ten minutes of the game but we didn't execute our opportunities. If we had done that then it could have been a very different ending for England. I feel that the boys did enough to win the game but they have learned a valuable lesson that if you don't execute your chances, and if you make mistakes, the top international teams will punish you. England were a victim of that lesson in Dubai."
"We have regrouped in George, and it has been very interesting working with this squad for the past two weeks. It has clearly shown me that these guys, whilst talented individuals, have not been put in enough situations where they have to take a lot more responsibility with decision making on the pitch. It is very evident that they all need to continue to work on their game understanding and the lines they run and the reasons why they run those lines. It appears to me that this is an area of the game that these younger players (and it may be endemic in youngsters throughout the game) need to work on and we will get better results from them.
"As the week has progressed I have seen a change in their attitude and their willingness to make decisions on the pitch, as well as understanding why they are taking those decisions. The proof will obviously be in the pudding come this tournament and to see if they can do what they have learned on the pitch in a competitive environment."
Friday has coached the England Sevens team since 2004 and is a former England Sevens captain. Since his involvement several youngsters have been helped by playing England Sevens and have now gone on to play for the senior XVs team, including Jamie Noon, Magnus Lund, Pat Sanderson and Mathew Tait. He is a firm believer that being tested by international sevens helps develop players and plays a key part of RFU's elite player pathway. "It is early days to say how much this experience will have helped these youngsters as they have only really had a snap shot of sevens. It is very difficult for players to get real benefit until they have been involved for a longer period of time. But what is pleasing is that players are starting to come out of themselves and are not taking for granted what we are saying to them on the pitch. When we ask them the reasons why they are able to explain the reasons why and we have seen the big loose forwards in James Haskell, Michael Hills and Tom Croft understand the lines they are
running and creating for themselves and each other. They are also improving their core skills but it is their understanding of the game that is definitely starting to improve. They are starting to be able to adjust their lines according to what the play makers will do, as it often changes during a game.
"I think we have also seen real improvement with the wingers. We have some very quick boys out here in Dom Shabbo, Marcel Garvey and David Doherty who are starting to understand how they can do more off the ball to create space for themselves and others."
Marcel Garvey (Worcester) has played England As before but at 23 is still very much developing as a player, according to Friday. He says, "Marcel is a lot more comfortable with the game now, and he is a very astute rugby player who really understands what he is doing. He is now prepared to speak up and is improving in his confidence to go out there and express himself on the pitch. He is very keen to learn and the more he plays, both sevens and XVs, the more confident he will become and the more we will start to see the old Marcel Garvey of a couple of years ago."
England face Wales in their opening match at 12.36pm (local / 10.36am GMT) on Friday 8th December 2006.