- Mixed emotions for centre in build up to Vegas
- England face Brazil and Scotland on opening day
Photo: Getty Images
Isoa Damudamu has a new opponent to tackle once England have concluded their title challenge for this weekend’s USA Sevens.
The Fijian-born centre took part in last weekend’s Hertz Sevens in Wellington seven days after the birth of his son Sela.
He’ll return to help his wife Pasimaca raise their three children after the Las Vegas tournament, in which England face Brazil, Scotland and Kenya in the pool stages on February 10 and 11.
“There were mixed emotions about leaving the family as we’ve got two young ones already under five but we’ve been in touch a lot on the phone and Skype,” said Damudamu.
“In a way I can’t wait to get back and I know I’m going to be busy!”
Damu’s switch from forward to centre – where his creative skills and 6ft 5in frame can do maximum damage - has been one eye-catching part of England’s success in a season which has seen them take the Dubai title then reach the semi finals in Port Elizabeth and Wellington.
Their last outing in the HSBC Sevens World Series saw England beat Samoa 21-12 in the third-place play-off following an agonising 17-12 semi final exit in sudden-death extra time at the hands of hosts New Zealand.
England are now third in the series rankings, nine points behind New Zealand, who they could meet again at the quarter final or semi final stage this weekend.
The made-for-TV format of the USA tournament sees the sides play two games per day on February 10, 11 and 12. England take on 2016 Olympic hosts Brazil (Friday 00.50 GMT) and Scotland (03.46) on day one, Kenya (Friday 20.28) and a potential quarter final (Saturday 00.52 or 01.26), before Saturday’s final knock-out stages.
“We missed some opportunities and it didn’t go according to plan in sudden death but we played really well last week and I hope we can carry it forward this weekend,” said Damudamu.
“It’s my first time here and I’d heard a lot about Vegas, the bright lights and the casinos. We’re staying in Planet Hollywood which is right in the middle and is quite a busy place. It’s totally different to what I’m used to but I don’t want it to take away my focus for the weekend.
He added: “We've never played Brazil before, so how they’ll be you never know but if we play to our strengths it should be okay.
“Kenya are dark horses; last week they played pretty well [beating Australia and Scotland], many of their best guys are back and there’s pace throughout their team. Scotland are tough every time we play them. There’s a big rivalry and they seem to save their best for us.”
As well as those increased family commitments, Damudamu will return to work as a lance-corporal in the British Army, serving in the Port and Maritime Regiment of the Royal Logistic Corps in Southampton.
England head coach Ben Ryan said: “We’ve got a close relationship with the British Army and it’s great that in the professional international game a team like England can still have military personnel involved – he’s a great ambassador for them and us.
“Damu’s been central to a lot of things we do in attack and defence, we’ve been working hard to make sure he’s fit and long may that continue. The move to centre and all the effort in the gym is paying off.”
England Sevens: Greg Barden (captain), John Brake, Chris Cracknell, Isoa Damudamu (British Army), Christian Lewis-Pratt, Tom Mitchell (Oxford University), Dan Norton, Tom Powell, James Rodwell, Mathew Turner, Rob Vickerman, Marcus Watson (Saracens).
Tickets are now available for the London Sevens weekend on May 12 and 13, 2012, with weekend passes starting from £30, single day tickets from £18 and kids tickets at £5 each day. (Tickets are subject to availability and booking fees apply).