Ryan bolsters England Sevens squad
August 30, 2011
England Sevens head coach Ben Ryan has announced his squad for the 2011/12 © Getty Images
England Sevens coach Ben Ryan has expanded his group of 'core' contracted players for the 2011-12 season.
Ryan will have 12 fully contracted players at his disposal for the latest HSBC Sevens World Series - four more than last season - with Sale Sharks forward Chris Brightwell, Leeds Carnegie playmaker Christian Lewis-Pratt and Newcastle Falcons centre Rob Vickerman the newcomers in the squad.
Three players have been rewarded with contracted status having impressed during the last campaign when England won the season-opening event in Dubai on their way to a third-placed finish overall. Dan Norton, England's leading scorer with 32 tries last season, joins from Bristol, Simon Hunt makes the move from Birmingham Solihull and while former Bristol and Royal Navy flanker Greg Barden is also promoted.
Three more members of the squad will be contracted by clubs with the RFU paying a percentage of their salaries. They are wing Marcus Watson (Saracens), half back Ollie Lindsay-Hague (Harlequins) and forward Isoa Damudamu (British Army). A further 'Wider Squad' group will be named later this year.
This is the second season for which England have contracted full-time players and Ryan believes the competition for places will continue to drive up standards. "We wanted more flexibility and more competition for places and we've got that," he said. "What we didn't want was a group that was comfortable and assured of their places in the squad for the HSBC Sevens World Series tournaments.
"Players increasingly have to make choices if they excel at sevens and can choose it to be a section of their career. There aren't many contracts on offer and every year more will want them so people will have to keep raising their game to retain their spots. They are pioneers but they have to perform."
The squad has started pre-season training for the 2011-12 campaign which kicks off with the Gold Coast Sevens in Australia on November 25-26.
England Sevens contracted players: Greg Barden, John Brake, Chris Brightwell, Chris Cracknell, Simon Hunt, Christian Lewis-Pratt, Dan Norton, Tom Powell, James Rodwell, Nick Royle, Mathew Turner, Rob Vickerman
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