Twickenham braced for Sevens heaven
August 13, 2009
David Strettle celebrates after leading Harlequins to victory at the 2008 Middlesex Sevens © Getty Images
With the Guinness Premiership season just around the corner, attention turns to the 2009 Middlesex Sevens at Twickenham on Saturday. In the season's traditional curtain-raiser, the 12 Premiership sides will be joined by four invitational teams to challenge for top honours.
Last season Harlequins, led by David Strettle, lifted the trophy with a win over the Army in the final. The Army are back again this year, and are joined by Samurai Sevens, White Hart Marauders and a Help for Heroes squad.
England Sevens coach Ben Ryan will take charge of the Help for Heroes side, hoping to raise awareness for the charity dedicated to helping soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ryan has called on former Gloucester hooker Andy Titterrell and Wales Rugby World Cup Sevens-winner Tal Selley for his squad, Selley having played at last season's tournament with Newport-Gwent Dragons.
"We've just been trying to get a team out," said Ryan, who jumped at the chance to be involved. "We've had a lot of support from the clubs, they know how important support for Help for Heroes is. We've gone for a combination side of England, Scotland and Wales, using England players that we hope to use for next season.
"It's a very untried side, we're just meeting on Friday evening, we're going to have a little run through and get a few core things together. We'll come up with a couple of ways to play our first game against Sale and go from there.
"We've got some pretty wily operators, particularly in the backs where we're blessed with some real power and pace. We'll do as Sevens should always be done, keep thing simple and allow them to play. We'll let the players go and have some fun, they're doing it for Help for Heroes and to play at Twickenham. I'm sure they'll want to play as many times as they can, which means we'll have to win some games."
Current Wales head of rugby development Joe Lydon takes the reins of the Samurai Sevens squad, who are playing in memory of former Wales Sevens coach Colin Hillman.
The Army have raided Gloucester's stocks for the tournament. Flanker Apo Satala, a Private in the Royal regiment of Scotland, turns out after winning the tournament in Army colours in 2001 and 2004.
There will also be plenty of big names on display from the Premiership teams, as they look to get their campaigns underway in the best possible fashion.
Reigning champions Harlequins will again be led by England winger Strettle, while they also count England No.8 Nick Easter, flanker Chris Robshaw, centre Jordan Turner-Hall and scrum-half Danny Care among their squad. Quins take on the Marauders first-up.
Quins will face stern competition from London Irish, the Exiles packing their squad with international talent. Injury-permitting the side will be spearheaded by the Armitage brothers, England internationals Delon and Steffon. The duo will also be joined by their younger brother, Guy, for the first time at senior level.
The squad also features England scrum-halves Paul Hodgson and Peter Richards, hooker David Paice and lock Nick Kennedy. The England contingent is joined by Samoan flyer Sailosi Tagicakibau. Gloucester will provide the opening challenge for the star-studded Exiles.
Lydon's Samurai side kick off against Northampton, with the Saints up against former England Sevens regular Simon Amor as well as South Africa's Ryno Benjamin and Kenyan Sevens stars Humphrey Kayange and Collins Injera.
The Army take on Bath, whose young squad will be hoping to get the focus back to the playing field after a difficult summer.
Sale will provide the opening test for the final invitational side, Help for Heroes, and include new signing Sisa Koyamaibole in their squad. Former Toulon back-row Koyamaibole links up with Samoa internationals Mahonri Schwalger and Andy Tuilagi.
The Samoan theme continues through Wasps' squad, with forward Dan Leo taking his place as they prepare to face newly-promoted Leeds. Newcastle feature former Leeds player and England Sevens representative Rob Vickerman in their squad to face Leicester. The Tigers include the younger Tuilagi, Manu, among their number.
Will Bowley leads Worcester at the tournament, with their opponents a Saracens squad featuring Owen Farrell, the son of the recently retired Andy.
Middlesex Sevens draw:
Gloucester Rugby v London Irish
White Hart Marauders v Harlequins
Saracens v Worcester Warriors
Samurai v Northampton Saints
London Wasps v Leeds Carnegie
Newcastle Falcons v Leicester Tigers
Sale Sharks v Help For Heroes
Middlesex Sevens squads:
British Army: Mark Lee, Apo Satala, Toobes Naulivou, Joe Vatubua, Zack Vakasawaqa, Petero Rokomatu, Kenasi Maritiro, Gerrard Wessels, Matthew Saulailai, Gus Qasevakatini, Maika Burenivalu, Semesa Rokoduguni, Box Lagilagi
Harlequins: Jono Ross, Jordan Turner-Hall, Chris Robshaw, Nick Easter, Luke Wallace, Karl Dickson, Calum Macrae, Danny Care, Ollie Lindsay-Hague, Waisea Luveniyali, Dave Strettle (capt), Sam Stewart
Help for Heroes: Chris Brightwell, Tom Powell, Greg Barden, Andy Titterrell, Simon Hunt, Rory Hutton, Peter Jericevich, Mark Woodrow, Tal Selley, Matt Turner, Uche Oduoza, David Akinlui
White Hart Marauders: James Reilly, Craig Hill, George Dixon, Adam Bishop, Howard Graham, Alex Cuthbert, Kameli Vuadreu, Paul Jarvis, Max Rantz-MacDonald, Ifan Evans, Ollie Brown, Tom Jarvis, Kevin James
Leeds Carnegie: Dan White, Scott Freer, Tom Denton, Oliver Denton, Alex Black, Jacob Rowan, Joe Ford, Adam Greendale, Scott Armstrong, George Warner, James Twomey, Oliver Steadman
Leicester Tigers: Jimmy Stevens, Matt Everard (capt), Tom Armes, Finlay Barnham, George Ford, Connor Smith, Gareth Clarke, Joe Cobden, Manu Tuilagi, Alex Lewington, Luix Roussarie
London Irish: Salosi Tagicakibau, Nick Kennedy, David Paice, Rob Herring, Paul Hodgson, Steffon Armitage, Delon Armitage, Peter Richards, Keiron Low, Jonathon Joeseph, Marcus Watson, Sam Edgerley
Wasps: Joe Burton, Arthur Ellis, Chris Whitehead, Mark Odejobi, John Bordiss, Jack Wallace, Hugo Ellis, Will East, James Honeyben, Christian Wade, Daniel Leo
Newcastle Falcons: Josh Afu, Charlie Amesbury, Peter Browne, Tom Catterick, Chris Micklewood, Rob Miller, Aaron Myers, Harry Peck, Chris Pilgrim, Scott Riddell, Rob Vickerman, Will Welch
Northampton Saints: James Ingle, Owen Giles, Liam Neale, Mike Haywood, Christian Lewis-Pratt, Grant Pointer, Nick Greenhalgh, Grant Anderson, Tom Foden, John Brake, James Cannon, Alex Waller, Jamie Elliot
ULR Samurai: Tony Roques, Chase Minnaar, Marius Schuman, Humphrey Kayange, Michael Fedo , Julien Palmer, Simon Amor (capt), Collins Injera, Ryno Benjamin, Peceli Nacamavuto, Willy Bishop, Tim Walsh
Sale Sharks: Sisa Koyamaibole, Mohonri Schwalger, Andy Tuilagai, Ed Styles, Morika Vacagu, Jordan Davies, James Jones, Ben Davey, Ben Roberts, Tom Brady, Dave Doherty
Saracens: Jackson Wray, George Kruis, Owen Farrell, James Short, Luke Baldwin, James Tirrell, Jamie Hearn, Henry Staff, Ben Ransom, Jamie Bache, Mark Billings, Brett Daynes,
Worcester Warriors: Matthew Cox, Dave Askew, Will Bowley (capt), Will Runciman, Ollie Grove, Charlie Fellows, Michael Penn, Rob Wood, Earl Collins, Andy Short, Matt Kvesic, George Crook