IRB Sevens World Series
Gollings confident of strong England showing
May 20, 2009
Ben Gollings has his eyes set on victory for England at the London Sevens © Getty Images
Sevens legend Ben Gollings is confident that a youthful England side can produce the goods in front of their home fans this weekend as the IRB Sevens World Series rolls in to Twickenham.
Following a promising start to the tournament England have fallen behind pace-setters South Africa, now requiring victories at the London Sevens and the final meet of the season at Murrayfield on May 30.
Despite the big task ahead of the squad Gollings, who is the all-time leading points scorer in Sevens Series history, believes that they can focus on putting down a marker in their opening game at Twickenham.
"We're all looking forward to playing at Twickenham," he said. "It's a case for us of taking it game by game and performing the expectations that we set ourselves. We want to go out and perform. Our one goal was to come away with the title so winning these two tournaments is key, but we've tried not to look at that, just take a look at what's in front of us."
With added firepower from England international Tom Varndell and a host of youthful talent England have an outside shot of achieving their goals, but will be disappointed to have ended up in this situation after a powerful showing in winning the hugely competitive Wellington Sevens at the start of the season.
"The season has been so close," said Gollings. "The bounce of the ball could have gone a different way and we could be sitting here in a different situation. We lost to South Africa in the final at Dubai in the last second, we lost the quarter-final in Hong Kong in the last play of the game. It's been frustrating, but that's Sevens. We can only go out there now and show that we mean business."
This season has seen a new crop of players cut their teeth on the Sevens circuit, with Newcastle's Micky Young winning a call-up into the England Saxons squad after starring in the seven-a-side game. Gollings believes that that the Sevens arena is a perfect training ground for players, introducing them to big-match situations and helping them to hone their skills before taking on further challenges in the 15-a-side game.
"They've done brilliantly," said Gollings of the younger players in the squad. "They're not household names but they've put themselves on the map and shown that they can perform at this level and have been picked up for further honours.
"It's a pressure cooker environment and you've got to hone your skills and see things very quickly and be very precise. Any mistakes and they get pounced on in this game. You're playing in front of crowds that you wouldn't necessarily play in front of which is huge for young players. They get the chance to beat people and they take that confidence out in to the 15s game."
Under head coach Ben Ryan this England side has steadily improved to this point, where Gollings believes that they are now genuine challengers on the world stage.
"I think Ben has been brilliant," he said. "He's brought a different kind of coaching style and the boys have reacted very positively to it. It took him a bit of time to find his feet within the role but certainly now we're a force to be reckoned with. Nobody is going to take us lightly. In the last year we've had one of the best runs the England Sevens team has ever had."
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