- Scouting for pearls to add quality to our series challenge
- England Sevens gems start work in Dubai on December 3
Photo: Getty Images
The Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens tournament kicks off the 2010/11 HSBC Sevens World Series in five days time.
On December 3, England will line up against France in Dubai for the first of 48 games Ben Ryan's side will play in five continents over the next six months.
For the duration of the World Series, the England head coach will provide regular updates from inside the team camp, giving you an in-depth account of life an international team competing in the pinacle of Sevens competition.
In the second of Ben Ryan's updates, he reports on the all-encompassing scouting process used to get the best players for England Sevens.
I caught up with some of the Samoan lads last weekend. A fair few of their HSBC Sevens World Series winning side had been picked for their European tour and five of them will fly straight from Scotland to next weekend’s Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens.
The USA is doing something similar and for Tier two countries, sharing players between the two variants is common practice. It’s great for the players to have international rugby on both fronts; their learning curve and experiences must be fantastic. In Argentina, sevens is seen as the final piece for many of their players before playing international rugby.
In South Africa, they are all full time and in Australia, they use the best young players. The Kiwis are currently fitness testing in camp (not that I keep a close eye on them!) and pick from the best NPC players that aren’t quite making the Super 15 grade yet. All the countries adopt a slightly different process based on their own individual environment.
For us, I can honestly say we select across the entire game. Currently in our side we have players that have represented all the England age group sides, England Students, England Counties and the Combined Services. The only England rep side missing in our squads CV at the moment is the senior side. Oh, and we have players that haven’t had any previous representative honours at all. I think at the moment we can say we put the ‘Union’ in Rugby Football!
Wide scouting network for Sevens gems
All our management spend time watching and using trusted sources to see what’s out there. The age group guys are already identified and for them it is a question of what’s best for them and their playing programme at Under 20 level and their club. The Championship has unearthed a lot of good players and below that one or two emerge onto our radar too – Nick Royle is a great example.
England Under 18 head coach John Fletcher will often mention a schoolboy player he has seen and last year I spotted Miles Mantella playing for Millfield at Portsmouth GS Sevens and he is now on a professional contract. The students game is watched too. Oxford’s Alex Cheesman was brought in to train last season and I have my eye on a couple more this year.
Photo: Getty Images
I also watch the English Schools Athletics Association championships and from there some athletes with a rugby background are investigated too. English qualified players living abroad have also been brought in – Mathew Turner , who played for South Africa at Under 20 level is one example. Two current forces players are in our squad in Isoa Damudamu and Greg Barden and we continue to work with all the armed forces to see who else might be ready to move through. Other sports at age group are looked at and going forward a big Olympic-led ID programme will hopefully find the best talent out there to welcome into rugby.
Close to getting Premiership stars involved
We have had to poke our heads into all the possible places we might get a gem or two! It is time consuming but worthwhile and we will follow up all our leads however odd they at first may sound! I’d love to have an open trial at some point to see if that brings any new talent in.
Of course there are players in the Aviva Premiership I’d love to pick. Billy Twelvetrees, Manu Tuilagi, Tom Johnson, Adam Thompstone and Matt Jess have all trained with us over the last couple of years but we never quite managed to get them capped. Those types of players would be great to have in the programme but we understand the needs of their clubs. So, we will continue to hunt high and low and once the lucky few get a contract or a spot in the side we do everything we can to make them world class sevens players and/or ready to rocket back into a 15-a-side programme somewhere.