- Gray, Fielden and Burgess 'major signings' for busy 2013-14 season
- International sevens 'great way to test myself' says former U20 captain
Photo: Getty Images
Former England Under 20 captain Alex Gray is one of three new signings announced by England Sevens for the 2013-14 campaign.
The London Irish back row forward will be joined in the squad by Luke Fielden and Phil Burgess from RFU Championship clubs Newcastle Falcons and Cornish Pirates.
The three significant new additions add extra resources to the squad ahead of a season that includes the HSBC Sevens World Series, the FIRA/AER European GP Series and concludes with the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next July.
Gray, 21, captained an England Under 20 side including Owen Farrell, Joe Launchbury and Mako Vunipola to the final of the 2011 Junior World Championships and has made 25 Aviva Premiership appearances for the Exiles and Newcastle Falcons.
Fielden, 27, is a full back or wing who has played in both the Premiership and Championship with Falcons while Burgess, 24, has made more than 70 Championship appearances for the Pirates.
England Sevens Head Coach Ben Ryan said: “Our objective is always to add quality and competition for places as we continue to drive up standards ahead of an important season that concludes with the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next July.
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Alex Gray, Phil Burgess and Luke Fielden are major signings for us. They’re athletic and talented players who already have a lot of experience. Their decision to join England Sevens is a reflection of how the sport is growing and also of how it will enhance and develop them further.”
Gray said: “Sevens is always something I’d wanted to be involved in and while I can see myself returning to 15s at some time in the future it is a great way of developing my game. England Sevens operate in a high-pressure environment wherever they play around the world and it’ll be a great way to test myself and my skills.
“I’ve enjoyed the two years I’ve spent playing and training at London Irish and the people here have been great. It’s a proud club with a great history and I’d like to thank them for giving me the opportunity.”
Burgess said: “Sevens has reached the time where it’s really going places and with the way it’s expanding, with the Olympics on the horizon in three years’ time, you can see the potential.
“I’ve loved being at the Pirates and in Cornwall and I owe them a great deal for giving me a chance straight out of university. It will be hard to leave 15s but for me and the way I play I believe I’ll be suited to switching to sevens full-time.”
Fielden said: “This is a great opportunity for me and I am looking forward to the challenge of testing myself on the international stage.
“The club [Newcastle] is in really good shape now, and there is a management structure in place that will take this club from strength to strength.”
Alex Gray (London Irish)
Position: Back row
Born: Bishop Auckland, 01.05.91. Age: 21
Height: 1.93m (6ft 4in). Weight: 104kg (16st 5lb)
Former Clubs: Newcastle Falcons
Representative honours: England U16, U18, U20
Phil Burgess (Cornish Pirates)
Position: Back row
Born: Frimley, 01.07.88. Age: 24
Height: 1.85m (6ft 1in). Weight: 95kg (15st)
Former Clubs: Camberley, Harlequins, Loughborough Students
Representative honours: England U18, England Students
Luke Fielden (Newcastle Falcons)
Position: Full back/wing
Born: Doncaster, 29.03.86. Age: 27
Height: 1.80m (5ft 11in) Weight: 91kg (14st 4lb)
Former Clubs: Cambridge, Bedford Blues