Coming full circle
November 28, 2012
England lifted the Dubai Sevens crown last year © Getty Images
It's amazing how things can sometimes come around full circle faster than you think they might and life certainly has a funny old way of repeating itself.
Eight years ago I was a 20 year-old lad plying my trade under Ben Ryan at Newbury when a phone call came asking if I fancied a trip to Dubai to play for St George Samurai (which in those days was effectively the England Sevens development team) under the watchful eye of Jim Mallinder. Today I find myself making the very same journey but this time as coach.
The team has changed its name and we are now playing as 'The Royals', a charity side set up by the Royal Marines which will consist of some current England squad members and some guys on the verge of the squad playing in the international invitational tournament. Last season I was lucky enough to be a part of the winning England team that took out the second leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series but now I find myself on the other side of the whitewash.
Last year, Dubai was the highlight of the season for us and to win it for a second consecutive year made it even more special. With the support England get over there it is like playing in your own backyard, even if we are in the sandpit!
This year England bring out a few new faces (and one old one). Teenager James Lightfoot-Brown has been tearing it up in training, which I think has something to do with his Mum dropping him off and picking him up each day! Ollie Marchon is another who has been knocking on Ben Ryan's door and has been rewarded for his efforts with selection for Dubai. The only down side to his game is that he's clearly modelled himself on the Kiwi Sonny Bill Williams.
Last but no means least is an old dog with a few new tricks and a couple more grey hairs. Ollie Phillips has had a couple of rough months due to injury but such is the man's professionalism it will not stand in his way come game-time. Be ready to watch all three light up your weekend along with the rest of our talented squad come Friday morning.
Unfortunately the Series has lasted only 30 seconds for me. After one run across the field to clear a ruck, the next thing I knew I was looking up at the Gold Coast sky. A loud pop and a quick tumble to the ground and my ACL was no more. All it took after that was a scan to confirm the bad news and to start rehab for the second time in four months.
Also struck down was last year's IRB Player of the Year nominee and Dubai Player of the Tournament Mat Turner, who is recovering from a broken ankle, and with Christian Lewis-Pratt also sidelined with a leg injury, our physio room is getting a little crowded at times.
Being injured is a tough thing to take and a bitter pill to swallow when you're out at the event you cannot take part in. I won't lie, there will be an anger burning inside me that I cannot play this weekend and if there was any way I could pull on our white jersey I would take it.
But it's not to be, so I'll be shouting to support England and cheer on my teammates and use the free time to channel my energy into the development team I'm lucky enough to be coaching. All that's left to do now is to say roll on the weekend and get behind England!
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