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England apply Brake in GP Sevens final

20 June 2011

  • New-look squad wins opening leg of European series in Lyon
  • Nick Royle earns player of tournament award with 13 tries

England Sevens are celebrating victory in the opening tournament of Europe's FIRA Sevens Grand Prix Series.

John Brake's hat-trick of tries made sure of a 28-14 win against Spain in the final at the Stade Vuillermet in Lyon and the series now moves on to the second leg in Moscow next weekend.

England fielded a mix of experienced campaigners from the HSBC Sevens World Series and new faces urged by head coach Ben Ryan to "show us what they've got".

They did so with wins against Moldova (45-0), Russia (35-0), France 33-15 and Wales (19-12) to top their group despite a first day defeat against Italy (21-19) before beating Portugal 33-14 and Spain in the knock-out stages with captain Chris Cracknell lifting the trophy.

John Brake scored a hat-trick in the Lyon final

Photo: Getty Images

"We did really well even with half a squad that was brand new," said head coach Ben Ryan.

"As we expected it's going to be a fantastic series for the development of the team, one which we're looking to win as well as improve the way we play and expand the pool of players we work with over the next season and beyond."

The most prolific scorer was wing Nick Royle, who touched down 13 tries and claimed the player of the tournament award.

And newcomers like Leeds Carnegie playmaker Christian Lewis-Pratt, England Students captain Tom Mitchell, England Counties flanker Aaron Myers, former Bath, Bristol and Exeter Chiefs wing Andy Higgins and ex-Sale Sharks flanker Chris Brightwell all made a positive impact.

"We want to get the ball wide to our wingers in space and Nick Royle made the most of it," said Ryan. "I'm delighted for him an he's got to carry on now and put pressure on our starting wing Dan Norton over the next three tournaments.

"Christian Lewis-Pratt kicked 17 out of 19 conversions and had a 100 per cent tackle completion rate; Aaron Myers played well and really worked hard to hang on to the tempo of the game; Tom Mitchell scored every time he played and they all did well."

England make two changes to their squad for the second leg of the series in Moscow this weekend with Rob Vickerman and Uche Oduoza taking over from Higgins and Chris Brightwell.

Centre Vickerman, with Newcastle Falcons last season, returns to the squad having signed a two-year England Sevens contract. Oduoza is also an experienced sevens international back in an England shirt for the first time since May 2010 after recovering from a knee reconstruction.

"These are guys who have won World Series tournaments who have lots of experience but are still in their middle 20s," added Ryan. "We're increasing the pool of players we can run the rule over who can play at the standard we require."

England meet Moldova, the Netherlands, Russia, Portugal and Italy in the group stage of the June 25-26 Moscow tournament.

The remaining legs take place in Barcelona (July 9-10) and Bucharest (July 16-17)

England Sevens squad for Moscow

John Brake, Chris Cracknell, Sam Edgerley, Christian Lewis-Pratt, Tom Mitchell, Aaron Myers, Uche Oduoza, James Rodwell, Nick Royle, Mathew Turner, Rob Vickerman, Marcus Watson.