Saturday 9th December 2006
Yesterday was the day for the speedsters to shine for England, but today it was the forwards who helped England in their quest to win the Emirates Airline South Africa Sevens.
England once again took control of the game, and there were fine displays from all three forwards - James Haskell (London Wasps), Michael Hills and Andy Vilk (both Sale Sharks). England's squad are being truly stretched due to a number of knocks to players, who are waiting to be assessed, and unable to play. But the remaining players certainly stepped up to the plate against the very physical Samoan team.
The heavy conditions of yesterday were worsened by more rain, and the pitch was extremely slippery. Haskell's first attempt to score, following an impressive break, was denied due to the slippery surface. It was left to Hills to get England onto the score sheet first.
Charlie Amesbury (NEC Harlequins) played well in what is only his second day of international sevens, and picked up a Samoan ball to prevent them from scoring just metres from their try line. Haskell deservedly scored his first try of the tournament before half time, ensuring England led 12 0 at the break.
Rain gave way to sunshine in the second half and England took even more control of the game. Former England Under 21 Haskell demonstrated his strength and power to cross the line for the second time, despite several Samoan defenders hanging from him at the time.
England's final try came from replacement Dominic Shabbo who showed his speed to score under the posts.
England Sevens Coach Mike Friday was pleased with his squad's performance, especially the forwards. He said, "The big boys up front played very well and are really working hard for each other. Hills is getting to almost every ball and working incredibly hard, whilst Haskell put in a great performance, and even got clapped by the South African crowd when he came off the pitch. Andy Vilk has been with the squad for a couple of years now and always puts in the effort and works hard on and off the pitch."
Phil Greening, Assistant Coach said, "The lads showed great character to pull together and dig in. They are really demonstrating mental toughness and that will hopefully be the same against the favourites South Africa."
England face South Africa in the semi final at 17.03 local (15.03 GMT).
Tries: Hills, Haskell (2), Shabbo
Conversions: Gollings ((2)
Referee: James Jones (WAL)
Michael Hills (Sale Sharks), Andy Vilk (Sale Sharks), Simon Amor (London Wasps, Captain), Rob Thirlby (Gloucester), Danny Gray (Bristol), James Haskell (London Wasps), Charlie Amesbury (NEC Harlequins)
Replacements: Dominic Shabbo (London Irish), Ben Gollings, Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers)
Not used: Marcel Garvey (Worcester), David Doherty (London Wasps).
Keneti Tofilau, Marlon Sione, Lia Palala, Faitio Sione, Lolo Lui, George Akerei, Mikaele Pesamino
Replacements from: Simaika Mikaele, Lisati Fa'anoi, Fatua Otto, Alatasi Tupou, Fanuafou Tofi
For more information and player interviews please contact Sally Price, England Sevens Media Manager on 07801 802 711.