England to go all-out for Sevens crown
April 30, 2009
Chris Cracknell is hoping to be on target when England begin their challenge at the London Sevens © Getty Images
It's cruch time in the IRB Sevens World Series, with South Africa holding a heavy advantage over their nearest rivals, England, as the game's travelling showpiece arrives in London on May 23.
Despite their 28-point disadvantage at the top of the log, England's Chris Cracknell maintains that the squad is brimming with belief that they can secure their first ever Series victory with triumphs in front of their home fans at Twickenham and at Murrayfield in the final event of the season on May 30.
"The ambition is to go in to both tournaments and win," said the Exeter Chiefs back-row. "We've still got an opportunity to win the series this year. We've got to go in to both tournaments with no illusion that we've got to win both.
"It's fantastic when you come back to Twickenham having been around the world all year. To come back and see all the England supporters, there's definitlety fantastic support from the home fans on the Saturday and Sunday. Hopefully we'll get a big boost from them being there and they'll get right behind us."
England's season began in the best possible fashion with their first win at the hotly-contested Wellington Sevens, before defeat to Argentina in the final of the San Diego tournament and a disappointing run of results at the Rugby World Cup Sevens, where they exited at the hands of Samoa in the quarter-finals.
"We're obviously disappointed as a squad," admitted Cracknell. "We've let ourselves down in certain areas and made it difficult for oursleves. We still have to look at the positives and learn from our mistakes in the last couple of tournaments. We're going in to London with a shot to win it and it's up to us. We've been dealt this hand and we have to do the best we can."
South Africa's emergence as the runaway leaders of the series has come as a surprise to many, with perennial title challengers New Zealand and Fiji both struggling. Cracknell believes that England's young squad can learn from the development of the Springbok side, who are in their second year together.
"They've done very will this year," he said. "As a squad it's their second year but for us it's our first year together. We can take inspiration from seeing what they've done from their second year, we definitely know what we can do in ours. My hat goes off to them for what they've achieved but at the same time I believe that we can go out there and win the series."
The profile of the Sevens game is growing at a rate of knots, with the raised standards and media attention helping the development of young players. England coach Ben Ryan has been credited with the improvement of England's setup, and Cracknell believes that he owes agreat deal to the former Newbury director of rugby and the professional atmosphere fostered by the Sevens squad.
"It's been a fantastic help playing under Ben, I owe a lot of my career to him. I think I've learned a lot more this year than I have for quite a while and it's helped me develop as a player over the course of the year.
"You go to all different corners of the world. In Wellington, where the crowd can be completely against you, to Dubai where there's 50,000 ex-pats and everyone is behind you. As a breeding ground for young players it's fantastic. Sevens is a great game and a fantastic arena to blood young players."
The Emirates Airline London Sevens at Twickenham takes place on May 23-24 - see www.londonsevens.co.uk for details. Tickets start from just £10 (adults), £5 (juniors) and are available through the website or Ticketmaster on 0870 902 0000.