Marathon not a sprint
November 29, 2011
England failed to live up to their own high standards in Australia © RFU
And so the circus has moved on. We are now in Dubai, where last year we were champions after winning the opening tournament of the season. This time around it's the second leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series and we are coming in on the back of a not so successful weekend in Australia.
The Gold Coast Sevens was for its first year a very well-run and slick tournament. Unfortunately for us we under-performed against a good Wales outfit, then a few mistakes cost us against New Zealand in the quarter final. However in this game it's a marathon not a sprint, with nine tournaments in total and we have learned some valuable lessons from last week which can improve on for this week in Dubai.
Off the pitch, the Gold Coast was in my eyes like an Australian version of Miami. We still managed to find ourselves a nice coffee bar in Lola's, weren't too far from the beach and were fortunate to train at one of the local schools whose pitches backed on to the river. Maybe if that had been my school I'd have stayed a bit longer!
Dubai for us is in some ways a home from home, the ex-pat community is huge and their support for England is amazing. Running out here last year for the final and winning it goes down in (to use the language of assistant coach Russell Earnshaw) my top five rugby moments.
Still, last year is last year and we can't afford to rest on our laurels and think it's just going to happen for us. The lessons from last week and some valuable training sessions at the fantastic Rashid School are what count for getting it right for this weekend.
One of the pluses of Rashid School is the swimming pool we use post-training, playing countless games of volleyball, pushing whoever is in a mood that day fully clothed in the pool full-clothed and the odd game of Marco Polo - a game of tag where one player closes his eyes and shouts 'Marco!' then has to grab all the others who've shouted 'Polo!'
Flying in here at 5am on Monday morning made for a long day, especially given the time difference, but we had a gym session and then rugby in the afternoon to get us moving and keep us awake.
Tuesday was more relaxed with some time off to recharge batteries and away from the rugby Dubai has much to see, from the countless shopping malls, trips into the desert and the inevitable market in Karama, where you can pick up your not-so-full-price Christmas shopping which will get you in the good books back home without damaging you bank balance too much.
Another favourite in Dubai is Cold Stone ice cream parlour, where they mix different flavours in with fillings of your choice. That and multiple games of brag were on the menu for keeping me, Tom 'Wiggy' Powell and Rob Vickerman awake to help us get over the jet lag.
From my hotel room I can make out the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, and the ever-changing Dubai skyline. Each year it's like a giant game of spot the difference, which is as much of a guessing game as what is going to happen this weekend.
Form obviously helps in sevens but with Canada, Zimbabwe, Portugal and the UAE all joining the tournament, there are four more sides out to spoil the party and this weekend is set to be another classic in Dubai.
The hairs on the back of my neck are already standing up at the thought of running out in front of a huge Dubai crowd and playing again with the events of last week driving me on to improve and perform the best I can for my country.
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