Saints play host to 7s feast
July 29, 2010
Andrew Higgins, now with Exeter Chiefs, could face former club Bath on Friday © Getty Images
Northampton, Gloucester, Bath and Exeter will battle it out at Franklin's Gardens on Friday night for the last two places in the finale of JP Morgan Asset Management Premiership Rugby Sevens Series.
Newcastle and Sale became the latest two teams to book their places in the tournament's climax at The Rec on August 6 by seeing off the challenge of Leicester and Leeds at Welford Road last week. Joining them will be Harlequins and Saracens, who ended the hopes of Wasps and London Irish at The Stoop in the opening event of the summer. And Friday's final qualifying pool promises to be another fast-paced, action-packed evening.
Premiership newcomers Exeter Chiefs face a stiff challenge against their more established rivals and any kind of success would be a significant boost ahead of their first season in English rugby's top flight. The Chiefs' squad includes former Bath winger Andrew Higgins who is set to make his first competitive appearance in more than a year following a nine-month ban for missing a drugs test. The 29-year-old was banned by the RFU last August after refusing to take two drugs tests following Bath's infamous post-season party in May 2009 and initially announced his retirement before agreeing a deal with the Chiefs.
"It will be the first time I have pulled on an Exeter shirt and it will be a proud moment for me," Higgins told the Express & Echo. "I put expectation on myself, I don't think too much about other people looking on and what they are saying or thinking. I really want to do well and give it my all."
Ben Skirving skippers a Bath squad including academy members Matt Keyte, Chris Cook, Paul Roberts, Nick Scott and Ted Stagg who will be tasked with ensuring the team are amongst those in the final mix on their home ground. Ahead of their tournament bow, manager Frank Butler said, "The 7s Series is a great opportunity for our young players to play in a major sevens tournament live on TV. It provides the perfect platform to show what they are capable of and to get them noticed."
Gloucester have named a young side with seven of their 12-man squad just 18 years old including Ryan Mills, Dan Robson, Koree Britton and Jake Carter who all have international age group caps, while the experience of Mark Woodrow and Tim Stevenson will also come in handy.
The Northampton squad is dominated by members of the club's academy but also features four guest players in the form of England Sevens squad members John Brake, James Rodwell and Tom Powell.
Group C Draw:
Exeter Chiefs: Michael Stupple, Chris Reakes, Eoghan Grace, Garrick Cowley, Josh Matavesi, Paul McKenzie, Andrew Higgins, Jamie Fleming, Charlie Walker-Blair, Drew Locke, Mike Canty, Rob Coote
Gloucester: Gareth Evans, Rob Langley, Harry Casson, Jake Carter, Koree Britten, Dan Robson, Ryan Mills, Paul Jarvis, Tom Jarvis, Mark Woodrow, Tim Stevenson, Jack Hayes
Northampton Saints: Tom Powell, Mike Haywood, Tom Nutley, Sam Farmer, Charlie Sadler, Ryan Glynn, Ben Nutley, James Rodwell, John Brake, Glyn Hughes, Jamie Elliott, Simon Hunt
Bath: James Tyas, Joe Ellyat, Jamie Collins, Rhys Davies, Ben Skirving, Charlie Marr, Chris Cook, Paul Roberts, Nick Scott, Ted Stagg, Matt Keyte, Ollie Woodburn
All four rounds of the tournament, including the final, will be broadcast LIVE from the grounds by ESPN in the UK.
Ahead of November's USA-All Blacks match, America's ESPN Magazine explains rugby to its readers who may not be familiar with the game
Tom Hamilton talks to World Cup-winning captain John Smit about life after rugby, his fears over the South African exodus and the World Cup
The reopening of the openside debate, a dominant wolf-pack and a sublime performance in defeat - Monday Maul looks at the weekend's talking points
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the Rugby Championship alongside the best photographs from around the domestic game