- Mike Ellery will join Saracens next season
- Long serving members of the England Sevens squad also move on
Photo: Getty Images
Mike Ellery is returning to the 15-a-side game with a move to Saracens having made an impact with England Sevens on the HSBC Sevens World Series.
Since joining England Sevens from Moseley in 2012, the 6ft 4in outside back has scored 17 tries in eight tournaments and remains available for selection for the Commonwealth Games in July before leaving the set-up.
Ellery’s progression from sevens to Aviva Premiership and Heineken Cup finalists Saracens highlights the potential of sevens to develop players for clubs and other England teams.
England Sevens Head Coach Simon Amor said: “Mike had always played in the forwards but we moved him to the outside backs to add physicality and address the balance within our squad.
“He is a phenomenal athlete, with an innate ability to pick a line and use his pace and power. The opportunity to play in wider space with a focus on core skills is where sevens can really help to develop players. We are confident that he will be a real attacking threat for Saracens.”
In other squad changes, England Sevens newcomers Sam Stanley (Saracens), Sam Blanchet (Exeter Chiefs) and Jack Walsh (Blackheath) will become centrally contracted, having made their debuts in March. Tom Bowen, top try scorer for Greene King IPA Championship’s Plymouth last season, also joins the sevens programme.
Sevens can really help to develop players - Amor
Tom Powell and Mark Odejobi are leaving to pursue business opportunities in the city while Mat Turner, Sam Edgerley, James Lightfoot-Brown and Luke Fielden are also moving on.
England finished fourth in the HSBC Sevens World Series against their sixth place the previous season and increased their overall points more than any other team.
Individual improvement and a strong culture and unity within the core group have enabled young players such as Jack Clifford and England U20 wing Howard Packman to come into the squad and benefit from competing on the world stage. Stanley, Blanchet and Walsh proved their potential in Tokyo and Hong Kong and their signings strengthen the central group.
“To be successful in the World Series you need a core group of centrally contracted players who fully understand the game and how to handle varying situations,” added Amor. “Development players are then able to fit into the system and be coached on and off the field by the experienced players. Balance is important and we are coming closer to achieving that.”
Photo: Getty Images
Mat Turner scored England’s fourth and final try against Fiji at Twickenham on May 11 to secure a third place finish in the Marriott London Sevens, a fitting finale for the winger whose career included being HSBC Sevens World Series top try scorer in 2011/2.
“Mat has been a cornerstone of the England Sevens team and has shown great form over the years. He has been a stand out player on the Series and we wish him the very best of luck,” Amor explained.
Of the other players leaving the squad Amor said: “Tom Powell will be a big loss when he moves on in August. He was brilliant in the role of captain for the Gold Coast and Dubai and he has remained a real role model for the squad.
“He brings integrity and strength of character to everything he does and after playing 40 tournaments with such distinction, he can be very proud of what he has achieved. We wish him all the best as he starts a new chapter in his life.
“Sam Edgerley’s attitude has been absolutely outstanding. No player has worked harder or given more in every single minute of every single session and it is with real regret that we haven’t been able to get him into that playmaker position due to such strong competition from Tom Mitchell. However, his attitude means that without a doubt he will go on to great things.
“I really felt for James Lightfoot-Brown. He has been fantastic in a number of the development tournaments but unfortunately his back injury has not allowed him to train consistently. His mind-set is excellent and he has been a great person to have around the squad.
“Mark Odejobi has struggled with injuries this year and we wish him the very best of luck in his future career in the city and also Luke Fielden whose leadership skills will be put to great use as he takes up the role of Rugby Development Coach at Colfe’s School after retiring with a knee injury.”