|Weight||85kg (13st 5lb)|
A kaleidoscopic coaching career took Ben Ryan on an upward curve to his appointment with the England Sevens squad as successor to Mike Friday in January 2007.
Thirty IRB World Series tournaments and a World Cup later, Ben can reflect on three and a half years in which he has become the longest serving England Sevens head coach. No current one at any England level, U18, U20, Saxons and Seniors, has been in the role for more time. The Commonwealth Games in New Delhi now beckons on October 11-12.
Educated at St Benedict’s, Ealing and Wimbledon College, he played alongside his current assistant coach Russell Earnshaw in successive Varsity Match victories over Oxford in 1995 and 1996, first off the bench and then at scrum half.
“My strangest experience was being tackled by a spectator dressed as a Viking when playing in the Varsity Match live on TV in front of a world record crowd then of 75,000 for a club game. The horn on his helmet gave me a pretty dead leg!”
The story goes back to Ben becoming a Richmond mini player at the age of six. He said: “The first session was full on tackling and I loved it. That was me - hooked!” His father Denis, who had played for the RAF, Manchester, Broughton Park and Sale, passed away just before Ben became England Sevens coach. Ben continued: “He had – and still has – the biggest influence on me.
“Paul Hopkins, my PE teacher at St Benedict’s also had a huge impact. He was full of positivety and it just rubs off on you – a great teacher still doing his stuff at John Fisher in Purley.”
Next stops for Ben were Loughborough University, Nottingham, Cambridge, Bedford, West Hartlepool and Newbury. Wimbledon-born, he had been in the England U18, U19 and U21 squads, led the Cambridge University Sevens side for two years and in 2006 coached England Counties, Sevens and U18 as well as Newbury in National One.
These players have made a lasting impression on him – Inga Tuigamala, Ralph Knibbs, Graham Dawe, Philippe Sella and his most admired teammates are Cambridge Blue Steve Surridge, ex-Nottingham pair Richard Byrom and Clifton Jones and Junior Paramore. “Russell (Earnshaw), with whom I played at Cambridge and West Hartlepool probably under-achieved the most – he should have got a hatful of caps.
“As a coach, I constantly aim to stretch the players’ thinking and decision making. Off it, I remind players that you never know when your last game in an England shirt will be. You need to play as if every match is your final one and with that ensure that no opposition player or team will ever match the passion to play for England.
“Almost every side we face treats playing us as a cup final and raises their game. We see that as a huge compliment and the best riposte is produce performances we can all be proud of – all the time.”