Hoping to add to happy memories
February 1, 2012
Chris Cracknell will hope to make an impact in Wellington this weekend © Getty Images
A belated Happy New Year to everyone. Many people make ludicrous promises over the festive season that have now all but evaporated. I kept it simple this year: travel with less kit and win the HSBC Sevens World Series.
So far so good. Everything got packed in to one bag and although I tipped in at 25kgs, I didn't think that was too bad for three weeks away for the next stage of the Sevens circus.
First up for England is the happy hunting ground of Wellington. It's my favourite city off the field so far and in the week we've been here, there have been five swims in the sea, two stingray sightings and I've lost count of how many coffees. Over the years I've have had many memorable moments on the pitch, winning my first ever IRB tournament three years ago and reaching the final here last year. Not that you can rest on your laurels in this game. There will be three other teams all vying for those all-important cup quarter final places with us on Friday evening.
Getting to this point has been tough with some hard camps over Christmas and increased numbers in our training squad meaning our head coach Ben Ryan's decisions over the last few weeks on who to bring out here have been less than easy! Fortunately for myself and the other 11 guys selected he has put his faith in us to carry out the job in hand.
For those of you who have not seen the squad announcement - there is the inclusion of Oxford University student Tom Mitchell. He is a new cap who played in the FIRA-AER tournaments this summer and is one of the most naturally gifted rugby players I've had the pleasure of stepping on the field with. No pressure there then…
We've been in Wellington a few days now arriving last Thursday after a pretty eventful trip (the leg room on the flight is only okay if you're Matt Turner's height) taking around three days from start to finish.
But now we are here we have been hard at work with early morning swims in the bay, (some of the lads are more Eric the Eel than Michael Phelps) which includes a 'bottle test' - standing on a plank 15ft above the water and falling head-first backwards - weights sessions and rugby sessions up at Tawa RFC.
On Sunday evening we played four seven-minute halves against Argentina. I'm not the biggest fan of "scrag" matches but they are good for us to get a run, blow out some cobwebs, run our moves against a different position to ourselves in training and most importantly, in my mind, make sure our defence is watertight.
With these hard days under our belt, we had a day-off on Tuesday so for a few of us that meant chilling out in the Arabica coffee house and having a lazy morning, catching up on news from home and a swim in the sea before myself and Tom Powell tried our hands at being coffee 'baristas' for the afternoon for a TV feature.
Now roll on Friday and running out in front of the fantastic Wellington crowd, all shouting themselves hoarse and dressed up for one massive stag & hen party!
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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
Tom Hamilton reports back from the launch of the Guinness PRO12 where there is a renewed sense of optimism with all of the off-field changes to the league
So much for the great Australian revival, writes Greg Growden. It now has the potential of going off the rails after the capitulation at Eden Park
The latest Week in Pictures takes in photographs from the Rugby Championship, the Top 14 and the southern hemisphere domestic scene