Thursday 30th November 2006
Abendanon's postcard from Dubai Sevens
Bath winger Nick Abendanon is currently with England in Dubai ahead of tomorrow's Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens. The 20 year old, who was born in South Africa, arrived in Dubai on Monday morning and is enjoying his first experience as an England Sevens player.
He says, "I played out in Dubai last year in the invitational tournament with the St George Samurai team but broke my leg in one of the first games so spent the rest of the time in the stands. This is my first tournament as a full England Sevens player and I can't wait to earn my first cap. There are seven new caps in the squad but I am glad that there are quite a few players who I know from playing England Under 21s so it is good fun. I am rooming with Ben Gollings who is one of the most experienced sevens players in the world. It's good to spend time with him and I enjoy chatting to him about the things I don't understand about the game. He gives me a little bit of confidence, and he is a really nice bloke."
Nick is no stranger to sevens having played at school for Cheltenham College, as well as for the St George Samurai and for Bath at the Middlesex Sevens. One of his sevens highlights is when his school beat rivals Wellington College at sevens - something he still teases his now England Sevens team mates James Haskell (London Wasps) and Dominic Shabbo (London Irish) about (both of whom were playing for Wellington).
He is confident that playing international sevens will help his XVs game. "I have always loved playing sevens so to be selected to play it for England is incredible. Training sessions focus on core skills and getting the basic things which should be simple to do down to a tee. The extra space in sevens allows you to practice passing the ball, and finishing tries. From a personal point of view I am looking to improve my ability to beat men one on one and sevens should really help my game."
Nick has had a good start to his Guinness Premiership season, having made his first premiership start against Leicester. He says, "I am really enjoying playing at Bath. We had new coaches at the beginning of the season and I was lucky to play well at the start of the season against Bath, which meant I was selected for the next few games. I wasn't expecting to be involved this much so early on in the season but it has been fantastic. We went through a bad rough patch when we lost a few games but we beat Newcastle last week. We have a weekend off this week with the EDF Energy Cup and hopefully will carry on winning in the Challenge Cup and again in the premiership. Our win against the Falcons will hopefully kick start our revival and we will move further up the table. We certainly have the squad to be at the top of the table and just haven't been functionally to our best on the pitch - I am sure we will turn that round in the coming weeks."
Playing at the Rec makes Nick no stranger to large, noisy crowds but he admits that despite his experience of playing in the Under 19s World Cup and at Under 21s level, he still gets nervous before big games. "The Bath supporters are one of the best groups of fans in the premiership and when you start playing at the Rec it is pretty nerve wracking when you are a young player, but you get used to it and try not to think about it. The Dubai crowd out here last year were just another level. It is hard to explain but the noise is incredible, and when England played in the final everyone was going mad and it was just like a full test match. I was sitting in the stands waving my shirt around my head going mad for England. The atmosphere is amazing and you have to be there to understand what its like. Hopefully if England can do well again this year then I will get to experience that atmosphere as a player and not just as a spectator."
Nick's father lives in South Africa and will be flying over to watch his son earn his first England Sevens cap. Nick says, "My mother is also flying in tonight and we have some family friends who live here so there will be some extra support for me in the 32,000 crowd. I am looking forward to just getting on with it now and hopefully helping England to their third successive victory in Dubai."
Keep up to date with Nick and the rest of the England team's progress in Dubai at rfu.com/sevens
Coverage of the Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens will be broadcast both live and in highlight form this weekend on the BBC.