- “The time is right for us” says Barry Maddocks
- “It's a cliché, but we need to play every game like it's the final” – Emily Scarratt
England Women’s Sevens head coach Barry Maddocks believes his charges are primed and ready to mount a strong bid for World Cup success in Russia this weekend.
Having directed a six-month programme with the primary aim of securing silverware in Moscow, Maddocks has overseen matters and guided England towards a solid foundation of sevens nous.
And with the tournament set to begin on Saturday with group matches against France, Japan and hosts Russia at the Luzhniki Olympic Complex, he is confident his side can hit the ground running.
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“It’s the right time for us,” Maddocks said. “We’ve had great preparation with tournaments along the way.
“The players have had a conditioning phase in order to gear them up for what lies ahead. We’ve done skill development and decision-making at the same time, so we’re looking forward to it now.
“Success for us would be performing to our best over the two days. If we do that, we’ll be in a good place.”
Maddocks singled out inaugural IRB Women’s Sevens World Series champions New Zealand as fellow contenders, but also pointed out that England hold a 2-1 lead over them over the individual three matches the teams have met this year after beating the Black Ferns twice in Houston.
That said, with Russia also capable of causing significant upsets – such as a 26-5 win over England in the third-place play-off in Amsterdam back in May – the competition could be wide open.
Indeed, although acknowledging England’s victory at the London Women’s Invitational Sevens would be have reassuring impact on her teammates, centre Emily Scarratt warned that complacency could be extremely dangerous.
“Even in the group stages we’ve got to perform – we have to play every game like it’s a final,” she said.
“That’s a bit of a cliché, but you really need that mentality. That’s something that was drilled into us from day one [of the programme] and we’ve tried to act like that at every tournament we’ve played in.”
Scarratt seemed humbled by her inclusion on a shortlist five-woman shortlist for the IRB World Series player of the year, but left little doubt as to her immediate focus on the collective.
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“It’s a bit of a shock to be honest because I’m not one of the people that runs in the tries and does all the flashy bits,” she added. “But it’s a real honour to be acknowledged, especially given some of the other players that have been nominated for it from the other countries.”
“Obviously my primary goal is to get through the group stages. Then we’ve try to perform to the best of our ability against whoever is in front of us.”
As a veteran of the 2009 World Cup – and a painful quarter-final exit at the hands of Australia – Alice Richardson finished on an encouraging note, suggesting that England’s dedicated build-up would stand them in good stead.
“We’ve been together for two or three days a week for the last six months, which has been really helpful and has made a really big difference in terms of team cohesion, fitness and skills.
“Up until the World Cup in 2009 we had played well and things were going to plan but we were inexperienced as none of us had played in the competition before.
“Sevens wasn’t such a big deal for women then and we definitely hadn’t had the preparation as we did before.
“It was a big learning curve and all credit to Australia – they played really well and disrupted us as well, but I’d like to think we were in a better place next time.”