- England Sevens captain says his side must keep calm
- Mitchell talks through excellent season and career so far
England Sevens captain Tom Mitchell heads into the final leg of this season’s HSBC World Sevens Series with a host of accolades hanging over him.
Having plundered 27 tries on the way to 310 points for the campaign, the 24 year-old is 70 ahead of Fijian flyer Samisoni Viriviri as the most prolific player on the circuit. Just yesterday, he was deservedly included among five nominees for the IRB Sevens Player of the Year award too.
Mitchell assumed leadership of Simon Amor’s squad for the Las Vegas tournament in January and has been a leading light as England have reached fourth on the ladder thanks to a number of consistent outings.
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Twickenham is the next destination, and a sell-out crowd awaits. As Scotland demonstrated with their run to the third-place play-off in Glasgow last weekend, home advantage often proves significant. However, reflecting on his period at the helm, Mitchell explained the importance of composure.
“Everyone’s quite relaxed,” he said. “It’s nice to get down here and get settled into the hotel. We’ve had a few recovery sessions so the bumps and bruises have been worked out slowly. The excitement will slowly start to build but that is one of the challenges we face – to remain as calm as we can this week and enjoy it rather than seeing it as pressure.
“I’ve really enjoyed the captaincy overall. To be honest I was fairly apprehensive at the start when I was given it – it’s obviously a massive honour but it comes with a lot of pressure as well because you want to do a good job.
“I’ve enjoyed it more than I thought I would and we have done OK. I’ve enjoyed working with Simon too. It’s a good relationship and we are continually working on how we can help each other. He’s been great in developing me into the role.”
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Reluctant to dwell on his individual achievements this term, Mitchell insisted that a competitive environment had helped bring the best out of his squad mates.
“I feel like I’ve improved in a few different areas this year and that’s been the biggest thing – taking it tournament by tournament and training session by training session to try and keep getting better," he said.
“I think everyone has done that. We’ve all strived to make those one-per cent improvements every time and that’s where we’ve been getting good change.
“The best memory for us [this year] has to be the final in Hong Kong. It’s the best we’ve done this year and anyone who’s played there will tell you how special it is. It was a really proud moment for all of us.”
Mitchell made his debut for England Sevens back in 2012 while he was studying for a post-graduate degree at Oxford University – and appearing at fly half for their first team, helping the Dark Blues to victory with a try in the 130th Varsity match. Soon after that, he signed a full-time deal meaning his entire professional career has been in rugby’s shorter format.
All things considered, Mitchell’s is undoubtedly a thoroughly modern pathway in tune with sevens’ rapid rise in popularity. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.
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“I feel really lucky to be where I am right now. I came through university playing for England Students with a few invitational sevens tournaments in there as well. I then came into the England Sevens set-up while I was still studying and Ben Ryan and RFU were very supportive of that – as they still are with some of our current squad members.
“It’s quite surreal to think where I am now, with it feeling comfortable and normal to be doing these sorts of things. This time two years ago it was all very new and very strange to be in this environment.
“I always loved played sevens, so I always wanted to do this. I remember doing a goal-setting thing at university and my main one was to play for England Sevens. It always seemed a bit unattainable as a goal but sevens was always something I kept my eye on just because I loved everything about it.
“I still love the 15-a-side game, but right now this is what all of my efforts are going into.”