- Brightwell and Higgins called into squad for Grand Prix series
- Ryan wants new and old faces to 'show us what they've got'
Photo: Getty Images
England Sevens are back in action this weekend at the start of a new European series that kicks off in Lyon.
Chris Brightwell, Sam Edgerley, Andy Higgins, Christian Lewis-Pratt, Tom Mitchell and Aaron Myers have all been called up for the opening stage of the FIRA Sevens Grand Prix series.
They join Marcus Watson, Nick Royle and full-time sevens players John Brake, Chris Cracknell, James Rodwell and Mathew Turner for the first of the four-leg series that also visits Moscow, Barcelona and Bucharest over the next two months.
England face Moldova, Ukraine, Russia and France on Saturday with a final group match against Wales and two knock-out rounds taking place on the second day.
"We’ve got half the squad that played in the HSBC Sevens World Series and the rest are guys we’re looking at for the future who have the chance to show us what they’ve got," said head coach Ben Ryan.
"The European series is a brilliant tool for us to have on our doorstep to try things out on and off the field without being in the pressure environment of the world series.
"We get the chance to deconstruct their games, look at new ideas in attack and defence and blood new players, so it’s a great opportunity to move the squad forward."
Blend of youth and experience
Photo: Getty Images
Ryan has an intriguing mix of youth and experience to work with over four weekends in June and July.
Wing Higgins has more than 100 Aviva Premiership appearances to his credit with Bath, Bristol and Exeter Chiefs; forward Brightwell, who has featured in eight HSBC Sevens World Series tournaments, returns to the fold after a year with Sale Sharks; and young playmaker Lewis-Pratt comes in from Leeds Carnegie.
Westoe and former Newcastle Falcons flanker Myers joins the squad straight from the England Counties tour to Spain, while Bristol University centre Mitchell captained England Students earlier this season in Portugal.
The addition of the European series to the international sevens programme also underlines how quickly the game is expanding following its inclusion in the Olympic Games from 2016.
"There have been advances made by Spain and Russia over the last year or so, joining England, Wales, Scotland, Portugal and France, and with all the other sides now taking part, it means that before you know it the game in Europe will be very strong," said Ryan.
"The profile of the sport is going up and up now and the advent of new events like this are great for the game."
The Lyon tournament is being broadcast on British Eurosport 2 from 5pm on Saturday and 6.45pm on Sunday.
England Sevens squad