- England will have "all hands on deck fighting for each other"
- Mature series and teams make tournaments tougher than ever
Photo: Getty Images
Birthday boy Tom Powell insists England and the sevens code have both come of age as they prepare for the opening weekend of the HSBC Sevens World Series.
The forward from Sheffield turned 27 in Australia today (Thursday) on the eve of the Gold Coast Sevens, the first event of a nine-leg global journey that concludes at Twickenham next May.
England finished third overall last term – behind New Zealand and Fiji – but have kept their developing squad together while several major rivals make changes.
The changes to Powell’s own team involve adding talent and increasing the size of the squad to 19 full-time players whose programme includes tapping into the Olympic expertise of English Institute of Sport.
The first test of their progress comes on Day One at Skilled Park, where Kenya, Spain and Samoa stand in their way in Pool C.
“If you look at our squad we’re quite an experienced one in terms of the circuit and a lot of the boys have been around for a few years, been to all the tournaments and know what it’s all about,” said Powell.
“Since the Olympic inclusion was announced three years ago sevens has grown as a sport and matured, and there’s still potential and a long way to go.
“But as the sport’s maturing there aren’t any easy games any more, the 30-40 pointers you used to get three or four years ago.
“Now every team poses a new challenge that you have to react to and if you’re not on top of your game you’ll get turned over. We’re fully focused on what we have to do on Saturday and hopefully we’ll then carry that into Sunday.
“Everyone here is fighting for a starting spot at the moment and then it’s all hands on deck fighting for each other at the weekend to push on and get the best possible start on the Gold Coast.”
Between tournaments, Powell splits his time between squad sessions in London and gym and track work with EIS coach Mark Campbell in Sheffield.
He said: “I’m training at the same facility as [Olympic heptathlete] Jess Ennis. It’s an incredible environment with specialised coaching for my lifting, the weights I’m doing and my speed technique.
“Mark works on the lifting and sprinting with me, so hopefully over the next few months the speed will increase and the power will increase and I’ll be able to keep up with the other boys on the pitch.
“It’s fantastic that we can do that away from London, so while I can do it in Sheffield, [fellow forward] James Rodwell can do it in Birmingham and [wing ] Dan Norton can do his at Bath.”
It’s not an extreme environment all the time, though, with his England teammates treating Powell to a chocolate birthday cake after training.
“I’ve had a lot of ribbing and lots of chat about my age but I got a nice cake at the ground which we sampled after our weights session in the afternoon,” he said. “It’s good to have a final treat before the weekend.”