England will warm-up for the start of the HSBC Sevens World Series by taking on their Northern Hemisphere rivals in Spain next week.
Head coach Ben Ryan has named a 14-man squad for the uncapped six-team tournament in Elche on Tuesday, November 1, where England face France, Portugal, Scotland, Spain and Wales.
Eleven of England’s full-time sevens squad take part. The other spots go to former England Under 20 wings Marcus Watson (Saracens) and Sam Edgerley (Esher) with student Dan Bibby (UWIC) pulling on an England shirt for the first time.
“The importance of taking part in this tournament is threefold,” said Ryan.
“First, we need to get as much game time as we can to run against the opposition what we’ve been doing in training. It will give us a good indication of where we are.
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“We’re also establishing a pecking order as far as players are concerned and we need answers to some of our questions. Competition is very hot and we have other guys who are coming back from injury so we need as many players putting their hands up for selection as possible.
“Thirdly, we need to build some momentum and that comes from success on the pitch in what we’re doing in attack and defence as well as in terms of results.”
Bibby gets his chance having trained with England for the last two weeks following impressive performances with Sale Sharks in this year’s JP Morgan Premiership Sevens.
The Wigan-born 20 year-old, a former Fylde teammate of England colleague Nick Royle, is in the third year of a sports science degree in Cardiff.
“I saw him at an England Students sevens talent ID camp, he did well in the JP Morgan Premiership Sevens and those things combined to get him invited to train with us,” said Ryan.
“He’s done well in the time he’s been with us and the next stage is to see how he shapes up in Spain.”
Listen to Ben Ryan discussing England's build-up to the HSBC Sevens World Series
Four other players are in the final stages of returning from injury.
Playmaker Christian Lewis-Pratt, former IRB Sevens Player of the Year Ollie Phillips, and 2011 Dubai champions Olly Lindsay-Hague (Harlequins) and Isoa Damudamu (British Army) will complete their rehabilitation at Twickenham to make sure they are available for selection for the start of the series.
After competing in Spain, Ryan will name his squad for the opening stages of the nine-event series in Gold Coast (November 25-26), Dubai (December 2-3) and Port Elizabeth (December 9-10).
England Sevens squad: Greg Barden, Dan Bibby (UWIC), John Brake, Chris Brightwell, Chris Cracknell, Sam Edgerley (Esher), Simon Hunt, Dan Norton, Tom Powell, James Rodwell, Nick Royle, Mat Turner, Rob Vickerman, Marcus Watson (Saracens).