- Alex Gray one of three players returning to 15-a-side rugby
- James Rodwell among several players to have signed new deals
England Men Sevens have announced player contracts for 2016/17 while also revealing which players will leave the squad to return to 15-a-side rugby.
James Rodwell, who set a new world record of 69 consecutive tournaments on the World Series earlier this year, has extended his England Sevens contract along with vice-captain Phil Burgess and influential players Tom Bowen, Alex Davis, Warwick Lahmert and Ruaridh McConnochie.
“This group, together with the likes of Dan Bibby, Richard de Carpentier, Charlie Hayter, Dan Norton and Tom Mitchell, gives us an exciting and talented core squad for the World Series next season and for years to come," said men's Head Coach Simon Amor.
“James Rodwell reached an incredible milestone this year and brings a wealth of experience. He is critical to us in key areas such as lineouts and kick offs, which helps not only the success of the England Sevens team but also allows him to support the development of the young guys coming through.”
'HE HAS DEVELOPED SO MUCH'
Meanwhile, Alex Gray is one of three players returning to the 15-a-side game next season, having had the experience of representing England Sevens.
Junior World Championship U20 captain and finalist in 2011, Gray joined the Sevens programme in 2013 and has since won 22 caps on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, as well as being named HSBC England Sevens player of the season at the RPA awards last summer.
The former No 8, now turned centre, will join Yorkshire Carnegie, while Sam Egerton follows former England Sevens player Marcus Watson to Newcastle Falcons and James Cordy-Redden signs for Ealing Trailfinders.
"Alex Gray was always a long-term project for us, with the aim of him eventually returning to 15s," said Amor.
"He has developed so much as a person and a player in the three years I’ve been fortunate to work with him. He has always had an amazing skill set but the physicality and the professionalism with which he now approaches games is second to none.
"He will be a big loss to the programme but we are excited by the opportunity he has with Yorkshire Carnegie.
“Sam Egerton joined England Sevens with the ambition of getting a Premiership contract. We are delighted that he was involved with Harlequins for a few months this year and has now signed with Newcastle. He is an excellent scrum half and his game has really progressed, particularly his core passing skills, a fundamental part of Sevens.
“Similarly James Cordy-Redden has worked hard within our academy and development group and at the accompanying tournaments. His excellent attitude has allowed a remarkable transformation from student to athlete. It is probably the biggest change we have seen in a player in such a short space of time. He will be a real asset for Ealing.”
England Sevens introduced an academy programme for the first time in 2015 and, following its success, a rigorous talent identification process was put in place to find the next England Sevens’ talent.
Strong relationships with regional club academies and schools, and extensive viewing of match footage, resulted in 22 players being invited for trials last weekend.
Those who are offered contracts will be aiming to either emulate Cameron Cowell, Harry Glover, Oskar Hirskyj-Douglas and Ethan Waddleton who have progressed from the England Sevens academy to the World Series, or will hope to follow the likes of Gray back to the 15-a-side game, all the better for their Sevens’ experience.