- Ben Ryan reviews London Sevens with view to Moscow RWC in June
- “We’ve got momentum for the world cup” – Sevens Head Coach
Ben Ryan believes England have shown the quality and resolve to perform well at the Rugby World Cup Sevens this June after back-to-back third-place finishes in the final two rounds of the HSBC Sevens World Series.
England suffered a single-score defeat to Australia in the semi-final before bouncing back to defeat Kenya to claim third at the Marriott London Sevens but it was the standard-setting excellence on day one that drives optimism.
Fiji and Samoa, the teams ranked third and fourth in the world series, were dismissed by an aggregate score of 61-7 in the opening two fixtures, representing England’s biggest margin of victory ever over Samoa and the first time England have ever drawn a blank from Fiji.
The intensity of those victories, allied to the tenacity shown to recover from 14-0 down in the quarter-final against South Africa and clinch victory with a sudden-death try from Marcus Watson, provides a significant platform on which to build for a tilt at the ultimate trophy in Moscow.
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England moved up from 10th to sixth in the series standings after Glasgow and London and Ryan said: “Overall, to move up the ledger so quickly in the last two tournaments, I think we’re third or fourth on form, after our run of injuries in tournament three, we’ve got a bit of momentum for the World Cup.
“We’ve got some of our new signings joining us on Monday and a few guys back from injury as well, which adds competition, so Russia is looking a lot rosier.
“We want to be in finals, but we also want momentum. Moscow is the big target but we’ve shown that when we keep the ball, we can create and score from lots of opportunities, and win games.”
Ryan’s chief weapon at the Rugby World Cup Sevens will be Dan Norton, England’s relentless wing who raced to 10 tries at the London competition.
The Gloucester-born former Bristol man has scored 52 tries, the most in a single season by an Englishman and the third highest of all time, leading to his inclusion in the IRB Sevens World Series Dream Team.
Photo: Getty Images
While the 25-year-old’s searing acceleration and intricate footwork catch the eye, Ryan emphasises the assiduous work he puts in when the public are not watching. “Where I’m more impressed with him is the stuff you don’t see,” he said.
“His tackle rate is incredible, his work rate is huge, we play him for every minute of every game, he doesn’t come off the field because his energy levels never get depleted.
“His speed endurance is phenomenal, he’s worked tirelessly at his game and he’s got the reward. He deserves it because what people don’t see is the amount of effort he puts in.”
England were straight back to work the day after the London Sevens, buoyed by the arrival of new signings Alex Gray and Phil Burgess and experienced injury returnees Chris Cracknell and Ollie Phillips.
Ryan will manage the players’ workload over the next two months, with England playing in various tournaments and individuals guesting for high-quality teams to maintain their conditioning. England will also look to retain their European title in Lyon between now and the World Cup, and, with momentum especially pertinent in sevens, one trophy could lead to another this summer.