- Former England Under 20 captain drafted in for Hong Kong and Tokyo
- Clifford hopes to build on Junior World Championship win
Photo: Getty Images
Having been called up to Simor Amor’s squad for tournaments in Hong Kong and Tokyo over the next two weekends, Jack Clifford is raring to translate the success of last summer’s Junior World Championship onto the international sevens stage.
Clifford skippered England Under 20 to a first-ever victory over The Channel, lifting the trophy after a 23-15 final defeat of Wales.
Indeed, the 21 year-old Harlequins No.8 was exceptional throughout the tournament, causing havoc among opposition defences with some hugely dynamic, powerful displays – not least during the semi-final tie against New Zealand, when an electric 50-metre burst laid on a crucial try for back-row colleague Matt Hankin.
Shortly after his involvement in the next two legs of the HSBC World Sevens Series was announced, Clifford seemed hugely excited about the next step in a burgeoning career.
“The Junior World Championship was a fantastic competition,” he said. “I’m really happy to have the memories I have got from there – it was a brilliant experience as a whole.
“Some members of the team have already come on well – the likes of Jack Nowell and Anthony Watson are in and around the England first team already. The other guys are really pushing on, too.
“I’d like to think that playing in those high-pressure games has put me in good stead for these tournaments. There will be a massive crowd in Hong Kong because it’s a massive sporting event. I’m really looking forward to that.”
Though the first part of his club season has been disrupted by injuries, Clifford has had enough time to familiarise himself with rugby’s shorter format.
Photo: Getty Images
The “awesome experience” of appearing in a one-off contest against Wales at Twickenham, which followed the RBS 6 Nations encounter between the same nations, was part of that education.
Clifford came on as a replacement in the second half of that 31-17 triumph, and – just as the likes of Tom Croft, Tom Youngs and Christian Wade have done in recent years before graduating into senior honours – is eager to excel in the wide expanses of sevens.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to develop as a sevens player and a 15s player,” he explained. “My fitness and my handling skills will be put under the microscope straight away and it won’t be easy.
“There’s been a lot of conditioning and a lot of running, obviously. It’s a high-intensity sport, so you’d expect that.
“I’ve had to fit in with the team’s defensive structures, too. Although the attacking plays are fairly similar, there’s been a few things to get used to when the team doesn’t have the ball – working with the guy inside and outside of you so you don’t get isolated.
“I’ve been keeping close with the more experienced guys so they can keep me up to speed. James Rodwell and Chris Cracknell have been really helpful. It’s been a case of integrating with the side so I’m there by the time we go away.”