England Sevens hit top form in Wellington
England 7s' Chris Cracknell
February 7, 2013
England delight in their victory at the latest leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series in Wellington © Getty Images
The New Year has certainly started a lot better than the old one ended for England Sevens and that's across the board. Both the men and women won their respective tournaments in Wellington and Houston and that certainly feels good.
First, I've had the privilege of working with the women's squad in their build up to the Houston Sevens so it was great to see them turn things around from Dubai and win the next tournament. And the main thing that brought joy to my weekend was my team-mates hitting their straps and winning my favourite tournament in Wellington, beating New Zealand on the way to claiming the title.
It was great to see Matt Turner and Christian Lewis-Pratt return from injury and show some great individual class but also add structure and direction to our side and instil what Ben Ryan has had us working on over the festive period.
Two other players stole the show for me, though. Marcus Watson, with a fine balance of his electrifying pace, elusive feet and rock solid D and Tom Powell, who fronted up all weekend and kept the ship steady, where both in outstanding form from Friday lunchtime to Saturday night.
Wellington certainly showed how this season's HSBC Sevens World Series is no forgone conclusion, with Fiji failing to make the quarters and Kenya reaching only the second final that I can remember (Adelaide being the other). Sevens is a fast evolving game and with many countries now full time and margins between what where originally top tier nations and the rest have disappeared.
This makes the sport even more exciting as we move in to Vegas this weekend. A smaller pitch, another big time difference, and a three rather than two-day tournament, all present new challenges for the teams.
So who will adapt and who won't? No doubt New Zealand will come with a point to prove, Samoa and Fiji are always strong here, Wales will want to improve as last week was not up to their recent standards and Scotland will want to take another step forward from hitting the quarters last week.
For the England boys it will be a fairly quiet week. Getting to the final, the games that went the full distance, extra time and the travel takes its toll on the body. We certainly can't afford to be complacent. One victory doesn't make us world beaters so there will be a review of the rights and wrongs, looking at work -ons so we improve and build on last week's performance.
No doubt all the teams are settled in to the new surroundings on the strip in Vegas, shopping at Abercrombie and the like to pick up bargains and maybe even having a flutter on the tables in the casinos. Meanwhile on this side of the pond... we are being told its going to snow once more, so it's off to buy some de-icer and a shovel!
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Martin Gillingham looks ahead to what he believes is the most remarkable ever climax to the league phase of the Top 14
With just two rounds left in the regular season, we look at the prospects of the teams taking part in the Championship play-offs
Joe Simpson talks to Charlie Morgan about loss, Wasps and being England's game-breaker
It is 100 years this week since the last international match played in Europe before the outbreak of World War One. Rewind remembers the fixture's longest-living survivor