Time to take it up a notch
England Sevens' Chris Cracknell
October 10, 2012
England's Chris Cracknell warms up for the opening event of this season's HSBC Sevens World Series on the Gold Coast © Getty Images
Finally pre-season is over! For the time being, we can breathe easy without testing and another week running flat out. This week, time in the gym has been diminishing and rugby sessions have been tapered as we run through our checklist for the weekend, cross our 't's and dot our 'i's.
A lot has changed behind closed doors in the England camp over the summer. I can't tell you everything or I'll be in the Post Office picking up my P45 faster than Dan Norton can run around Usain Bolt. But we are now a 19-man full-time squad and receiving extra support from the English Institute of Sport, who helped Team GB's athletes in the build up to the Olympics. We have grown off the field too, with an extra physio and an video analyst being added to our gang.
All of this has made pre-season tougher than ever and ultra-professional. Nineteen lads competing for places means training has been ramped up a notch, with us able to go seven on seven and push each other harder for places. With more numbers you need fewer stones unturned so Dan the analyst has been brought in to keep us on our toes in training and new physio Remi will help keep us old gits going and stop the young Padawans from breaking down.
Now I'm sure you're all dying to know about Sevens being included in the next Olympics. As players, the excitement of that is always in the back of our minds, but it is still four years away. There's just the small matter of this season, the World Cup at the end of it, European tournaments, then next season's HSBC Sevens World Series and the European series again and then the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow… So there's a long way to go before it appears on the horizon (It's still pretty exciting though. Shhh!)
So I've checked my kit bag in at Heathrow once more, all the usual necessities packed: gadgets, new boots and enough Canterbury kit to clothe everyone on the plane, and it dawns on me that I'm about to face another 80,000 miles around the world in economy chewing on my knee caps. It's the only bugbear of my job and something all the competing countries have to deal with.
We stopped off in Hong Kong en route to Australia for this weekend's Gold Coast Sevens. We've based ourselves down in Cyberport near the university and have been using their fantastic facilities. Pool, recovery, some hard graft, gym sessions and a 'scrag' match versus the Hong Kong lads has been a great build up to the big kick-off.
It was also nice to catch up with mates who now reside in HK, including Eni Gesinde and Ally MacLay, the latter unfortunately out of action with a knee injury apparently sustained in down-town Wang Chai.
We're now settling into the hotel on the Gold Coast and the intensity will be ramped up as we run into old friends and foes in the lobby or food hall. Before we all know it, Saturday morning will be upon us, the texts from loved ones will fill our phones and it will be time once again to do battle.
Men with whistles and flags will try to keep all the overgrown children in check for 14 minutes at a time before we take on isotonic sports drinks and shakes until they come out of our ears. The season is about to begin and I for one can't wait.
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