- On the eve of the Hong Kong Sevens, the sixth leg of this season’s HSBC Sevens World Series, Tom Powell answers questions on his international sevens career and how it all started
- It’s ten years since he played alongside Chris Robshaw at the Rosslyn Park National Schools Sevens – which starts this week
Where did you start playing sevens seriously?
I played my first serious game of sevens at Millfield school at the age of 17. It was at the annual Millfield Sevens event, we won the game 71-0 and went on to win the tournament!
What was your experience of schoolboy sevens?
I loved every minute of it. We got to enter lots of tournaments and it seemed like every weekend we would be travelling somewhere to play.
Photo: Getty Images
Who was in your Millfield team and what was the standard like?
My team in the Upper Sixth included Chris Robshaw, Anthony Allen, Ollie Morgan and backed up by the likes of my England Sevens teammate John Brake, who was in Year 11 at the time... The standard was very high and I remember tough games against Wellington and Ivybridge who had a certain Steffon Armitage in their side.
Who were your biggest rivals?
As above, our biggest rivals were Ivybridge, Wellington and Llandovery from South Wales.
Which coaches have been influential in your career and why?
Steve Shortland and John Brimacombe were huge influences at Millfield. Special mention has to be made of Alan Starr and Richard Bodie from the school and rugby club at Dinnington who first introduced me to the game.
How has your playing career developed?
My playing career has improved greatly from being involved with the England Sevens for four years now. The skills are magnified as is the game understanding. Any mistake is highlighted as there is nowhere to hide. [England Head Coach] Ben Ryan and Russell Earnshaw have helped me throughout this process, giving me new goals to help me be the best version of myself I can be.
Photo: Getty Images
What’s international sevens like?
A tournament weekend is incredible with up to 40,000 people, usually in fancy dress, partying, screaming and shouting either for you or against you. The best comparison I could make to a sevens atmosphere would be a cross between the Olympic Games and Mardi Gras (quite topical as sevens appears at the next Olympics is in Rio!) The standard has shot up in the past four years. There are no easy games on the circuit and anyone can turn anyone over. Physically after a sevens weekend your body is well and truly battered so it’s a credit to the support staff that we are able to do it all again the following weekend - usually after at least a 12-hour flight. It's very rare in a sevens weekend that you feel 100 per cent other than in the first game, so it's about getting your mindset right. You have to understand that you’re sore, but so are the opposition so you get your head down and get on with it. You need to show a bit of mental toughness.
How do you train?
We train in camps Monday to Wednesday, where we will be on the pitch every day working on various aspects of play. We also go through game reviews and previews, individual one-on-ones, unit work, swimming recovery sessions, and of course fitness sessions. Thursday is our day off, then I spend Friday and Saturday at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield for speed work on the track immediately followed by a speed endurance fitness session, then I have a weights programme to complete. Saturday is similar but substitute the speed for more fitness work. It does help training in the same gym as some of the 2012 heroes and heroines like of Antony Joshua and Jess Ennis!
What advice would you give to young players interested in following in your footsteps?
Believe in yourself and if you want something then go and get it and don't let knock backs or criticism prevent you. Commit to your goals and work hard to achieve them as success never comes cheap. It takes a lot of hard work before you get any hint of the reward but it makes them all the more special when it comes.