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Inside England Sevens VII: Ben Ryan column

29 March 2012

  • Lots for us to play for in amazing city of Tokyo
  • Sharp and speedy in build-up to next tournament 

Konichiwa from Tokyo! Last week we were in Hong Kong and this week made the short four-hour flight across to Japan and the quite amazing city of Tokyo.

We didn’t hit the heights we aspire to when we lost 14-7 to Fiji at the semi final stage of the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens. In terms of possession and chances, we did more than enough to reach the final and watching the game back again is not a lot of fun.

England Sevens head coach Ben Ryan

Photo: Getty Images

We could quite easily of been in a winning position after the first four minutes but chances were not converted and back came Fiji to march into the final. Congratulations to them. I know how much a Hong Kong victory means in the Islands and they were very worthy champions this year in probably, as New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens has said, the hardest Hong Kong Sevens in history.

Now we are in Shinjuku, training and resting before the seventh leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series. The weather is more akin to a sunny winter’s day in England which has thrown one or two players who have T-shirts as their only wardrobe choice!

There is a bit more down-time in week three of our tours as the team need that little bit more rest after the first tournament. That has meant the lads have relaxed, gone to Yoyogi Park and the temple there, visited Shibuya and the famous Five Crossings and neon lights, as well as walk around and just experience normal Tokyo life. It’s such a safe city and the team hotel is in a great place so no-one has been sucked into the ether and disappeared yet on their wanderings.

It’s still been business as usual though and we have mixed up our week with swimming, weights at the Olympic Stadium, and training sessions at Canon Eagles and Meiji University grounds – all of them fantastic facilities.

With only the top 12 sides in the main tournament in Hong Kong, all the teams look a bit more battered and bruised this week. However, we had some practice matches against Russia and I was pleasantly surprised at how well we were moving about and playing with real speed. That’s given us all lots of encouragement that we will have a great weekend here.

Dan Norton on the attack in England's Tequila Sunrise change strip

Photo: Getty Images

Unfortunately we have lost Chris Cracknell to a shoulder injury and Isoa Damudamu, who has had to return home to train with the Army team. These two have been replaced by Chris Brightwell and Sam Edgerley - a great chance to impress for both.

It was about fine margins again last weekend, but there is so much to play for as we approach our two home tournaments and it’s vital we finish strongly. In many ways it has been a fascinating year so far, as I have seen at close hand just how much improvement all the international teams have made.

I wasn’t surprised that Portugal and Spain will join Canada as the three new core teams next year after their successes in the qualification tournament last weekend. Much is made of the dominance of Oceania in world sevens terms but Europe now has six sides in the series next year, the largest contingent from any Continent. Both Portugal and Spain have played at a high level for some time and the new European Series last season really helped them progress even further. Congratulations to both our Iberian friends.

International sevens certainly has its ups and downs for all sides and last week certainly proved that. This weekend is another full of opportunity and excitement for all the players in white, or for the final time, orange. Yes, our famous Tequila Sunrise shirts will finally be laid to rest in Tokyo this weekend and worn for the final time. In the Land of the Rising Sun, it is quite apt, although I hope it is our success, not our shirts, that is being talked about this weekend. Come on, England!

Follow Ben Ryan and England Sevens on Twitter @benjaminryan

Tickets are now available for the Marriott 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. Throughout the month of March all category 2 weekend tickets are available for just £20. (Tickets are subject to availability and booking fees apply).