England 7s squad primed for epic season
October 3, 2012
England 7s captain Rob Vickerman insists his focus is not on next year's World Cup but the next training session - such is the level of competition within the squad.
The first event of the new nine-tournament HSBC Sevens World Series kicks off in Australia later this month with Vickerman's side looking to improve on their third place finish last season.
The battle for supremacy in the shortened version of the game will also have an added dimension this term with the last staging of a World Cup before the Olympics becomes the pinnacle of the sport but Vickerman is refusing to look as far ahead as that tournament in Moscow in June next year.
"We can't focus on the World Cup," said Vickerman, "we've got to knuckle down for what is going to be a really long and tough season. Now that our squad has been expanded it will be more competitive and you not only have to focus on the next tournament but the next training session.
"We have a squad of 19 but you can only take 12 to each Series tournament so that we have to deal with people not going to each tournament. That means a lot of personal questions being asked but we have got to make sure our group is strong enough to go beyond winning and make sure that development is seen in every aspect."
Vickerman was speaking at the recent launch of England's new playing kit that features a specially-built pocket for the latest GPS technology - an innovation that he believes can give his side the edge over their rivals.
"In terms of analysis, that could have a massive impact on how we train," insisted Vickerman. "I know a lot of people are changing the way they train around the way they are playing games. So the GPS information is already making a big difference."
The squad are also reaping the benefit of having a full time analyst. "We have been able to breakdown last season as a whole, " he explained, "and on average Fiji were getting four points more than us per tournament. Straight away we have recognised that if we want to be the top team in the Series then we have got to make sure that we are consistently making finals.
"While that is easy to say having seen a statistic it does help us reverse the process for what we need to do to be No.1. Once we establish our structures, not just collectively but individually and what it takes to be the best in your position, it will make for an exciting season."
That excitement is set to reach fever pitch by the time the sport returns to the Olympics at the 2016 Games in Rio and Vickerman and co are already relishing the prospect having had a front row seat for some of the crowd-pleasing exploits of Team GB earlier this summer.
"It only really hit home when we were at training session down in Teddington and the time trial was on," he explained. "We were joking all morning saying that any cyclist going past was Bradley Wiggins and then he went past on a practice lap. We then went round the corner after training and saw what must have been about five or six thousand people lining the streets.
"It was one of those moments when you turn and look at each other and go, 'in four years time that could be us'. Granted it will not be a home Olympics but the excitement and buzz around that one moment is enough to make sure you train hard for the next few years."
With such an enticing prospect, a more difficult decision awaits for the next generation of players who are set to be forced to choose their career path - XVs or 7s. "Gone are the days where you can do both," insists Vickerman, "and the decision for the younger guys needs to be made sooner rather than later."
England's 12-man squad for the opening event on the Gold Coast has been named by coach Ben Ryan. It includes last season's top two try-scorers Mat Turner and Dan Norton alongside Vickerman with the tournament set to take place October 13-14.
England Sevens squad for Gold Coast Sevens: John Brake, Chris Brightwell, Chris Cracknell, Christian Lewis-Pratt, Tom Mitchell, Dan Norton, Tom Powell, James Rodwell, Mathew Turner, Rob Vickerman (captain), Marcus Watson, Jeff Williams
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Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum and you can also follow him on Twitter.