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Norton’s Olympic ambitions must wait

01 August 2012

  • Sevens star Dan Norton’s appetite whetted by London Olympics
  • World Cup and Sevens World Series must come first though says flying wing
England Sevens wing Dan Norton on the run during the HSBC Sevens World Series

Photo: Getty Images

England Sevens star Dan Norton has Olympic and World Cup ambitions but insists the modern day professional era of Sevens means the players can look no further than next season’s HSBC Sevens World Series.

With London 2012 having just kicked-off, gold medal thoughts abound all over Great Britain but are are especially pertinent for Ben Ryan’s England Sevens squad, given the sports inclusion at the next Games in Rio de Janerio in 2016.

Norton, whose 85 world series tries put him fourth on England’s all-time list, admits the lure of a gold medal is strong but says bettering a third-placed finish in last season’s world series is the first priority.

"I think it's one of those things [Sevens being included in the Olympics] that you never thought would happen," Norton told ESPN. "But now that it is in the mix ahead of the 2016 Olympics, it is just huge for the sport.

“It's a great thing to have on the horizon and getting that gold medal is certainly something to aspire to. And before then is the World Cup over in Moscow next summer. I haven't played there but some of the other boys have and I've heard that the stadia are amazing. It will be incredible to be involved in.

"But first of all we've got the whole season of the HSBC Sevens World Series ahead of us. We started pre-season training on Monday so we need to kick-start the Series with some solid performances and some wins before we even start thinking about the World Cup."

England Sevens wing Dan Norton is brought down by two New Zealand tacklers during HSBC Sevens World Series

Photo: Getty Images

Leading England Sevens' transition into the professional era has been head coach Ben Ryan, who has been in charge since January 2007. With RFU centrally contracted players such as Norton eyeing world cup glory in Russia, it a stark reminder of how far the game has come from England’s 1993 victory, when the tournament was won with a team made up well know VX players.

Norton, whose blistering acceleration over 20m has been timed as faster than Usain Bolt's, is full of praise for Ryan’s role in the transformation to a full time international set-up with a squad of 16 players.

The 37-try man from last season also believes the side can improve on successive third-placed finishes, adding: "Back when they won the world cup in 1993, they were all 15s players in the Sevens format so it will be very different this time around.

“But Ben will get us in great shape and he's a great coach. He has some unique and original ideas and even though they sometimes seem wacky, they always work out.

“The last two years have gone pretty well, the programme’s expanded a lot, more resources have come in to it and results in the last couple of years have put us in the top two or three.

“This season our goal is to keep improving, do well and that will give us some real momentum going into the World Cup.”