- England Women's Sevens looking to build winning platform
- Steady progress towards World Cup in June
England Women’s Sevens head into this weekend’s third round of the IRB World Sevens Series in Guangzhou, China with a sense of expectation framed by form and hard work.
Following their Houston Series win in February, Barry Maddocks’ squad currently sit third in the World Series standings behind New Zealand and Australia and will be looking to reward the unprecedented time and effort invested in this season’s campaign by players and coaches alike.
Ahead of the Sevens World Cup in Moscow this June, stars from the England XVs side have focused on sevens, missing out on the 2013 Six Nations campaign in the process, a decision that has borne fruit, according to fly half Katy McLean.
“Leading into the World Cup in June, the RFU wanted to give the girls the best possible chance and us, as England, the best possible chance," said the playmaker. "They’ve taken 17 players out of the XVs programme to focus on sevens, allowing us to have a bit more time away from work, train together and I suppose that hidden time that you don’t really get; we’ve got an opportunity to use that.
“Having the opportunity to be with the girls Sunday, Monday, Tuesday allows us just to get to know each other a bit better, pick up on little lines and little traits that each one will have, that maybe at your club you get to know, but actually in England, because we’re together so few and far between you don’t really see those bits and pieces. So the little lines people take, whether they want to offload or they won’t, we’re now able to read each other a little bit better.”
Maddocks also highlights the benefits of extended camps, which culminated in the second round series win: “We can work on their core skills, which is a fundamental area of the game, you know, passing, decision-making. We can also work on their fitness and conditioning and at the same time we can monitor their recovery, which is an important thing. We’ve got them in for a couple of days and they train really hard and have to go back to their employers then from Wednesday onwards, so it’s a big plus for us to have them in the short bit of time that we do have them for.”
Flanker Maggie Alphonsi is one of the leading lights in women's rugby, the first women to win the coveted Rugby Union Writers' Club Pat Marshall award in 2011. The 29-year-old is recovering from a series knee injury and her presence rehabbing with the group is a sign of the emphasis placed on uniting as a squad.
Alphonsi, who hopes to return for the Marriott London Sevens in May, added: “We’ve worked really hard for this period and we obviously won out in Houston. In China, I think the girls will do a really good job out there and obviously leading into the London Sevens, which is an invitational, but then going on to Amsterdam, which is the last tournament of the actual series. If we win that, it would be perfect and give us lots of confidence going into the World Cup.”