Sevens boss issues warning to Olympic hopefuls
October 4, 2012
England Sevens head coach Ben Ryan has issued a warning to those players hoping to earn selection for the Olympics in 2016
England Sevens head coach Ben Ryan believes selecting stars of the XVs game for the Olympics in 2016 would be an insult to those players dedicated to the shortened version of the sport.
Established England internationals Chris Ashton, Alex Goode and Ben Foden have all expressed an interest in playing for Team GB at the Games in Rio that will see rugby return to the Olympic programme for the first time in 1924. Foden revealed his desire and that of many of his team-mates earlier this week, commenting: "I'd do whatever it takes...Who wouldn't want to play in the Olympics? It would be a once in a lifetime experience. I'd be keen to do some extra training at any time. I know for a fact that quite a few of the England boys would want to do the same."
But Ryan, the favourite to take charge of Team GB, has warned that no-one can expect to be drafted in on the back of their reputation and demanded long-term commitment to the Sevens set-up. "Ben knows his Sevens because he was very very good when he played for us and now he's playing XV and he's doing the same - excelling at international level," Ryan told ESPN. "But I saw the suggestion that some XV players might try and take a sabbatical to play Sevens and break into the Olympic side. It's just not the same. By the time the guys do that post-2015 World Cup, we'd have already done our qualification for the Olympics.
"I've said it before - and I'm not referring to Ben as he knows where he's coming from - but when players or people suggest that a XV player should play for us or Great Britain, I find it a bit insulting.
"Have you seen our players and seen what they can do? If you put a XV player against a Sevens player then I'd back my man every time. And in two or three years we should be having a conversation about why this Sevens player isn't playing for England or in the Premiership.
"I understand why people don't know Sevens as it hasn't had the same exposure as XV's has had but the players we have are world class and they would stand up strongly against anyone in the XV game."
England Sevens captain Rob Vickerman, whose side kick off their latest HSBC Sevens World Series campaign on the Gold Coast later this month, echoed his coach's sentiments earlier this week, commenting: "They are two very different sports in terms of fitness. You have a 15 minute high intensity training session rather than an 80 minutes raw aerobic game where size may be a little more important than it is in 7s."
And while over the next couple of years there will be various XV players touting themselves as potential Olympians, Ryan is also a man in demand in both codes. He has been linked with various posts in the past and he admits that he does get the odd phone call enquiring about his availability but he's keen to stay put with England.
"I do get calls from XV and Sevens teams and I've had interest in the past from around the world," Ryan said. "But as you'd probably guess from my enthusiasm, I love what I do. I'm very passionate about being part of an England set-up and that's not something I would very easily give up.
"They might give up on me and I think that's more likely than me walking away. The offers I've had in the past and in the future will come and go but we've got a programme in the early stages and we've got a lot of success ahead and I want to be part of that."
The England Sevens side have expanded from 12 to 19 full-time players for this season and Ryan is hopeful that the increase in competition for places could propel his side from their current third place ranking up to the lofty heights of the Kiwis in first.
Mat Turner will be one of England's key players this term © Getty Images
"We are inches from achieving the success that this team desires," Ryan explained. "We've won individual tournaments and we've never won a world title. There's a lot still to do. We do think we're building a programme towards building a team that can be regularly the best team in the world and while we're third - in the bronze medal position - we think we're going to improve upon that this year.
"It makes a massive difference having the increase up to the 19 full-time players. Because we have more players, we have more competition and that buffer for the inevitable injuries. Last year we had 12 full-timers and by the end of the Series they were on their last legs.
"And if we had those extra players at our disposal then that would've improved our second-half of the season. This year with 19 players I think that's far more relevant for us. We can have a much deepened spread and better performances throughout the whole season and those small margins might go in our favour."
He has picked his squad for the first match with the world class duo of Dan Norton and Mathew Turner included but one noticeable omission was former IRB World Sevens Player of the Year Ollie Phillips - an absence that Ryan believes illustrates their credentials for a shot at the title.
"We've picked on form and Ollie had a bit of a niggle. He's 100% fit now and the lads must use that to their advantage - they must get ahead of him on the pecking order. I'm sure he'll push his case in the next tournament and beyond and yes he's a very good player but we have lots of good players".
© ESPN EMEA Ltd
In the latest edition of Ask John, John Griffiths answers queries about Barbarians socks, bi-lingual referees and Lions who weren't Lions
"Here is the line-up I believe will take to the field on Saturday, let the abuse commence." Tom Hamilton has a punt at the Lions' starting XV for the first Test in his latest Tour Diary
"Drafting former Lions heroes and rising stars into your side at short notice may make for great copy but it does not make for a great side." Graham Jenkins on the lesson from the Lions' first loss