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'Surprised' Oxford student set for England Sevens debut

31 January 2012

  • English and Philosophy graduate geared up for HSBC Sevens World Series 
  • Nomura Varsity Match winner expecting pressure test in Westpac Stadium

OXFORD student Tom Mitchell surprised himself – and everyone else – by forcing his way into the England Sevens squad preparing for the NZI Sevens in Wellington that kicks off on Friday.

The 22 year-old former England Students captain developed his game during three years studying English and Philosophy at Bristol, where he was taken to the Safari Sevens in Kenya by Bob Reeves, the then Director of Sport, Exercise and Health who coached the university side for 30 years.

His success there started the process that led to him winning a call-up for last summer’s FIRA-AER European Grand Prix tournaments with England and Mitchell then moved to Oxford – for a Postgraduate Certificate in Historical Studies – and made a try-scoring appearance in the Nomura Varsity Match the Dark Blues won 28-10.

He rejoined the England Sevens group after the first three legs of the HSBC Sevens World Series and got the nod for the Wellington (February 3-4) and Las Vegas (February 10-12) tournaments from Ryan and assistant coach Russell Earnshaw.

England Sevens new boy Tom Mitchell

Photo: RFU Archive

“I was excited and surprised when Ben and Russell told me the news,” said Mitchell, from Cuckfield in Sussex.

“They asked if I expected to be included and the simple answer was ‘No!’ I’d trained hard and been doing my best but I didn’t expect to make it into the side with the success they’d had in the first three tournaments.

“Last year was a great one on lots of fronts, with England Sevens for the first time, playing in FIRA, the Varsity Match, all amazing experiences and I’m sure Wellington will top it.

"From what I’ve heard of the atmosphere it’ll be exciting and like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Hopefully I’ll be able to handle the pressure. I can’t wait to get out on the pitch.”

Mitchell’s attributes – pace, handling skills, tactical nous – add more attacking options to the England side that clinched the Dubai title in December and now sits just four points off the top of the table.

“He’s very quick and has good game understanding and the fact that he’s forced his way into a squad that doesn’t have any injuries and has won a title this season shows that we’re in a position of strength,” said Ryan.

Mitchell added: “I’ve enjoyed working with all of the guys and what’s really impressive is the cohesion within the squad and how tight a group it is. To be included in that is a real privilege.

“I hope to bring diversity and to cover all the positions in the back line, and experience playing different positions in 15s helps develop different skills.

“In a playmaker role I hope I’m able to see space, draw defenders and put people away – and every now and then to slip through a gap myself. If I can cross the line a couple of times I’ll be a happy man.”

Tickets are now available for the London Sevens weekend on 12th & 13th May 2012, with weekend passes starting from £30, single day tickets from £18 and kids tickets at £5 each day.  Visit Ticketmaster.co.uk or call 0844 847 2492.  (Tickets are subject to availability and booking fees apply).