Sitting on the other side of the fence
December 6, 2012
England will hope that Dan Norton is on fire in South Africa this weekend © Getty Images
Chris Cracknell, recovering from a knee injury, coached an invitation side at the Dubai Sevens before watching his England team-mates in action at the second leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series.
Life on the other side of the line is certainly a different place with a lot of high and lows and organising 13 other blokes for a whole week and certainly was a different side to Dubai than the one I've been used to. It also included sitting in the stands watching England all the way to the Shield Final.
This certainly isn't where we want to be by any stretch of the imagination. However the margins are very small in these games and if you look at the squad that took the field there were a number of new face in the mix, so when you look at our results - losing by a score or less - it's a slim margin that these young guys are learning to overcome and convert in to wins.
For me, Dubai was slightly surreal but extremely rewarding. I was in charge of The Royals, which is a charity set up by the Royal Marines who hosted our team at a fantastic dinner, based us in a hotel that is the tallest in the world and also ran their own vets team, who have certainly not lost any of the "old school" ethos. Holding a kangaroo court session by the pool, whilst my guys where doing their pool recovery, certainly showed two sides to rugby.
The lads I took charge of were guys that are on the edge of the England squad or currently part of it and not selected for Dubai, and we had a successful day one that put us through to the quarter finals of our competition.
The great Serevi used to say "tournaments are never won on day one". How right he was. We hit a really exciting quarter final against the Sydney Spiders, which was anyone's game until the final two minutes until some individual brilliance, never-say-die attitude from the guys and strong running from Mark Odejobi and Tom Howe, put us two scores up and out of sight.
Unfortunately the day came to an end in the semis against a Samurai International team that was effectively the South Africa second string. We lost by three scores, the difference being the extra cohesion they had from playing regularly together and a bit more match fitness. Even so, my young English lads can hold their heads high and some will no doubt be knocking on England head coach Ben Ryan's door in the near future.
We then took to the stands to watch the rest of day two and support England in their games against Australia and then finally against Spain. What I witnessed from the stand was England starting to gel and put performances together,
England have a fantastically talented squad, just not a vastly experienced one in these tight games and they are nursing a few injuries right now. That makes a difference and it is just simply a fact of life and rugby.
So how do we overcome this? Well, fortunately in this modern day and age, we can review videos and learn from experience, as well as having a full week's training and another bite at the cherry this weekend at the South Africa Sevens.
England have to build on those last two games and what better test could there be than coming up against New Zealand and Fiji in the pool stages. We certainly have try-scoring prowess in Dan Norton, as he showed in Dubai, and I'm sure that the boys will gel that little bit more this week, hit the reset button and come out fighting in Port Elizabeth this weekend.
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