- Amor to oversee men's and women's sevens programme
- England women qualify for Rugby World Cup sevens
- Buy tickets for the Mitsubishi Motors Exeter Sevens
This weekend brings about the fourth and final leg of the Rugby Europe Grand Prix, the Mitsubishi Motors Exeter Sevens.
It will provide a very different feel to the world of sevens and a chance for the wider rugby world to witness the brilliant standard of the nations perhaps not always at the forefront of the mind when thinking about rugby. On the back of a thrilling HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, the Rugby Europe Grand Prix has a very different feel as a tournament, which is brilliant for the development of the sport and to continue the exciting, fast and festival style action that always accompanies the game.
Barcelona, Bucharest, Clermont, Lyon and Moscow are just some of hidden gems on a rugby circuit that hosted the revamped Rugby Europe Grand Prix since England started taking part in 2011. While some may not make the same associations to the venues on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series – which is more akin to the grandiose Formula One grand prix – the tournaments bring about more of an experimental feel, which can be crucial for development and expansion. The ability to experience the absolute and stunning spectacle of European culture in some beautiful cities on a trip with a rugby group provided some great memories.
Exeter’s after party
Exeter hosted this very same event last year that had huge significance as the last chance for Team GB to play together, cement individual selections and hone the partnerships of three unions into one - before heading off to the Rio Olympics.
The tournament was a real success and no doubt given the recent achievement of Exeter winning the Premiership, any chance of celebrating rugby in whatever form after six weeks reminiscing will be welcomed by the whole city. This year will provide much more of a stern test for the youthful, somewhat inexperienced England team, that have previously struggled this European series, only claiming 9th, 6th and 10th – but the power of a home crowd and chance to impress in front of Sky Sports cameras may well change the outcome.
Pathway to Professionalism
Many known and established figures of the England Sevens team and Team GB Olympic silver medalists such as Dan Bibby and Tom Mitchell would themselves cite the opportunities on the European summer circuit as valuable in progressing through their sevens career.
They may now be seasoned and top-class professionals but this is now a chance for the next generation of sevens players to show what they are capable of against specialists – which is such a rare opportunity for England coaches Simon Amor and Tony Roques to witness. The tournament is equally as challenging physically and mentally, and for many of these young players will be the biggest crowd they have played in front of, all adding to the challenge.
The Sevens academy and development route is becoming much more prominent in bringing through quality sevens players – and as we have seen on the World Series this year, strength in depth is pivotal to success.
These Rugby Europe tournaments are often a real challenge for the more established nations – even though history would show the past five winners as Sevens Series regulars England, France and Russia.
Having played in many of these tournaments personally, it is clear the big game for most countries is a shot against England and that can mean a passionate, heated and committed performances. Over the years the teams such as Germany, Spain and particularly Ireland are now regularly challenging the core nations, with Ireland in particular making huge impressions after winning two of the three events on this Grand Prix.
Luck of the Irish
Ireland were unlucky to lose in last year’s semi-final in the Olympic repechage in Monaco that would have given them the last slot to Rio (which Spain took). Since then they have secured the services of many university, provincial squad and All Ireland League players (their domestic league) to create a very balanced, impressive and most notably - a team full of characters, which is what sevens is all about. Providing another strong performance this weekend, they are in line to take the title for this Grand Prix and rightly so.
While the World Series has gone on from strength-to-strength since the creation of professional programmes from 2011 onwards, so too has this series – with the winner gaining entrance for the Hong Kong series qualifier event eventually leading to a ‘golden ticket’ for one team on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. This truly is a great opportunity for a group of people, players and nations that dream of a chance travel the world and play on the most desirable sevens circuit venue – it will all be decided this weekend.
Tickets are still available for the Mitsubishi Motors Exeter 7s - here.