- Plate winners England miss out on series title by a point
- Tournament wins in Lyon and Moscow earn second place
Photo: Getty Images
England’s men missed out on a first FIRA European GP Sevens title by the narrowest of margins in the summer’s final tournament in Bucharest, but Head Coach Ben Ryan believes the tournament met his objectives.
The side won the first two legs of the series in Lyon and Moscow, finished fourth in Barcelona and needed to reach the semi final stages in Romania to make certain of overall victory.
But they were edged into third place in their group by Russia. The two sides finished with similar won three, lost two pool stage records but although England were 50 points better off on points difference their rivals went through by dint of a 21-15 win when the sides met on the opening day.
Ryan says the extensive tournament allowed him to trial certain players for next season's world series campaign – with differing levels of success – and also bed in the new centrally contracted players.
"Overall the European series was a positive experience for us," he said. "It's given us the opportunity to effectively trial players as well as give newly contracted players 28 games to begin the bedding in process within the squad.
"Some 'triallists' have done really well while others have found it tough. We finished the series having won more tournaments than any other nation as well as having top try scorer, points scorer and highest team points scored for the series.
"It’s been a great tool at our disposal. Selection was also done to give opportunity so often players in the squad that had world series experience were left out to give others a chance."
Photo: Getty Images
England went on to beat Italy 31-17 and Georgia 29-7 to win the Plate final. Portugal then needed to beat Spain in the Cup final to nudge England into second place in the series rankings and duly did so with a 14-10 victory.
In the pool stages England, who fielded a mix of HSBC Sevens World Series regulars and potential future players, beat the Netherlands 52-0, Moldova 42-0 and Wales 33-17 but were beaten by Russia 21-15 and Spain 24-0.
And Ryan added that the number of teams competing and the increased quality of the emerging nations are a further indicator of how sevens is growing, with Europe leading the way.
He said: "I think England and Wales's inclusion in the series this year also has helped raise the standards and awareness of European sevens. It's been an excellent standard in terms of the quality of teams playing with sides like Portugal and Spain showing they are world class standard and I'm sure the series as a whole will only get stronger.
"Europe now rightly leads the way globally in regional competition structure. This season has involved travel to 13 countries, 32 flights, just under 100 games against over 30 nations – sevens has once again shown how fast the game is moving and also how England is helping to forge it's future."
FIRA European Sevens GP Series (top five): 1 Portugal 63pts, 2 England 62, 3 Spain 59, 4 Russia 52, 5 France 50.