England eye back-to-back wins
December 9, 2010
England's James Rodwell breaks clear of the Samoan defence during last weekend's triumph in Dubai © Getty Images
Arguably the greatest challenge facing England's players in South Africa this weekend will be keeping their feet firmly planted on the ground after last weekend's remarkable triumph in the season-opening IRB Sevens World Series tournament in Dubai.
Ben Ryan's troops will undoubtedly still be basking in the glory of their sensational success in the United Arab Emirates. After suffering a first ever defeat to Portugal in the pool stages, England only just scraped into the Cup quarter-finals courtesy of last-gasp win over Fiji. They then went from strength to strength, though, edging out Australia and New Zealand before claiming the title with a stunning late rally against reigning IRB Sevens World Series champions Samoa in the tournament decider.
However, because of the short turnaround, England now have to turn their attention fully to this weekend's tournament in George, not least because they have been drawn in a very tricky group alongside Russia, Kenya and New Zealand.
"You've got to celebrate your successes and we did well in Dubai but we've got to build on that now," England boss Ryan said this week. "England have never won back-to-back tournaments in 11 years, so we've got the opportunity to make a bit of history.
"I reckon we were probably at 70 per cent of our potential last week. We've got the chance now to improve in certain areas and we can all see what we need to improve and build on. Doing that is the next big challenge. It's up to us to take our performance to another level in George."
Indeed, Ryan freely admits that if England are not fully focused, they could easily fail to qualify for the last eight of the Cup competition.
"We've got a really hard group," he said. "We start with Russia, who are a very formidable side. They'll definitely knock over a top team at some point and we don't want it to be us.
"Kenya have good a lot of good players. Humphrey Kayange, Gibson Weru Kahuthia, Leon Adongo all have lots of experience. In Africa, it's a different story playing against Kenya. They'll have to beat one of us or New Zealand to get out of the pool so they'll have a real crack at New Zealand and then at us. They've beaten us in George in the group stages in the past and we daren't underestimate them.
"New Zealand won't have enjoyed being beaten by us and will want to hit straight back. The challenge this week is to show Dubai was not a one-off win."
Elsewhere, Wales and Scotland have been drawn together in Pool A alongside Australia and France. Last weekend's runners up, Samoa, have the United States, Fiji and Namibia for company in Pool B, while South Africa have Portugal, Argentina and Zimbabwe to contend with in Pool D.
IRB Sevens World Series Schedule:
Dubai: 3-4 Dec 2010
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
ESPN looks at the forthcoming season of the Guinness PRO12 and assesses how each of the 12 teams will do
"Like the Treaty of Versailles, despite all the promises, the new Participation Agreement is certainly not the final solution." John Taylor writes
"We know where we are going and we know where we want to get but how long that will take is anybody's guess." David Humphreys on his plans for Gloucester
Jim Mallinder and Justin Burnell were sat on the same top table, but in different circumstances. Tom Hamilton reports on the Aviva Premiership season launch