Sevens Series ready for kick-off
July 14, 2011
Saracens will hope to continue their success in the tournament after taking the inaugural title last year © Getty Images
The battle for the 2011 J.P. Morgan Asset Management Sevens Series kicks off at the Recreation Ground in Bath on Friday night.
The 12 Aviva Premiership clubs are set to go head-to-head over the next three weeks with the four leading sides qualifying for the competition finale at The Stoop on August 5. Saracens laid the foundation for their Premiership success with victory over Newcastle Falcons in last year's Sevens final and English rugby's leading lights will be keen to follow their lead.
Bath, Exeter Chiefs, Harlequins and London Irish will line up in the opening event with some of the Premiership's younger players set to be handed the chance to showcase their talent in front of the ESPN cameras.
Harlequins will benefit from the experience of England Sevens international Ollie Lindsay-Hague on Friday. Their squad also includes first-team players Sam Smith and Ross Chisholm as they bid to reach the final on their home turf. Lindsay-Hague is looking forward to the tournament but is not expecting an easy ride despite his Sevens pedigree.
"All the teams competing are Premiership clubs and will inevitably all be very strong at the tournament, so it's up to us to prove ourselves as a team and as individuals," said Lindsay-Hague. "Sevens is an incredible test of fitness, your speed and strength both need to be up to scratch or you can get found out but we have already been back at training for a couple of weeks here.
"We will be going there to win the tournament, I've never competed in the JP Morgan before but from what I have heard about the players involved it's going to be tough."
Hosts Bath have named a youthful squad for the tournament and will be captained by England Students' fly-half Paul Roberts. The rest of the side, made up of current and new Academy players, include a raft of new faces alongside Bath United stalwarts Will Skuse, James Stephenson, Ben Mosses, Tom Heathcote and Matt Keyte.
Exeter Chiefs will be captained by hooker Chris Whitehead who will lead a strong side, including Mark Foster and James Phillips. The 25-year-old was delighted with the honour. "I guess it shows the coaches think I am a positive speaker and one of the more senior heads in the squad," Whitehead said. "That said, it's not just about being a captain out on the field, but off it you need to try and be positive throughout the whole build up and look to lead from the front."
London Irish have called upon England U20 international Guy Armitage for the tournament. The squad also includes Dave Sisi, who made his first appearance for London Irish against Sale last year in the Anglo-Welsh Cup. The Exiles' coach Neal Hatley said: "We are relishing the chance to test ourselves against three very good teams. It is an important opportunity to involve some of our young players and give them the experience of playing competitively against some top quality opponents."
Group A fixtures:
Harlequins 7s v Bath Rugby 7s (19.30) (BST)
Bath Rugby squad:
Will Skuse, James Stephenson, Joe Buckle, Tom Baldwin, Freddie Gabbitass. Ben Mosses, Tom Heathcote, Matt Keyte, Will Clemesha, Paul Roberts, Jamie-John Kilmartin, Richard Lane
Exeter Chiefs squad:
Chris Whitehead, Sam Hill, Matt Goddard, Jack Nowell, Henry Slade, Mark Foster, Mike Canty, Herbie Stupple, Dave Ewers, James Phillips, Jack Arnott, Giles Archer
Chris York, Jack Clifford, Charlie Walker, Ollie Lindsay-Hague, Howard Graham, Sam Smith, Joe Trayfoot, Miles Mantella, Luke Wallace, Ross Chisholm, Henry Taylor, Ben Urdapiletta
London Irish squad:
James Lightfoot-Brown, Guy Armitage, Neville Edwards, Tim Holgate, Ben Lonergen, Peter Synott, Ben Pritchard, Dave Sisi, Jack Moates, Charlie Baffour, Anthony Watson, Oli Brown
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
John Taylor argues the world's best XVs players must be given a chance to play in the Olympics to increase the appeal of the game
The All Blacks' form is not a peaking issue, but Hansen must threaten to wield his axe, to demand improvement, Craig Dowd writes
"It has been the World Cup that smashed down the gender barriers of the sport." Tom Hamilton looks back at a remarkable tournament
A selection of the best pictures from England's historic World Cup triumph in Paris as they beat Canada 21-9