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Of all of the players running out at the Home of England Rugby at the HSBC London Sevens this weekend, it will be particularly special for one member of the England squad.
Phil Burgess will be playing in his 50th HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series event at Twickenham, having made his debut on the Gold Coast in 2013. He has also has been chosen to captain the side in absence of regular skipper Tom Mitchell.
The stats so far are impressive for the 30-year-old: 266 matches, 382 points scored including 76 tries and one conversion.
Burgess has an impressive haul of silverware, including a silver medal at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco to go with a silver at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Last year he was also part the England squad that won bronze at the Commonwealth Games.
As he approaches his half century of tournaments at home, England head coach Simon Amor explained why Burgess has lasted so long.
“It is the level of professionalism and consistency, he is the ultimate sevens athlete.
“He is a role model for other people every single day, it’s just who he is, it’s in his DNA, he won’t change for anyone and you wouldn’t want him to as he is absolutely fantastic.
“I think he is top of the tackle count this year and is consistently there, and the amount of contributions and impacts he makes is phenomenal - what he’s done to stay that fit shows just how much he takes care of himself.”
Ryan Olowofela has been playing with Burgess for the past couple of seasons and has been an admirer of his talent as well as his support.
“He just steps up to the occasion whatever it is," he said. "He’s so calm and cool headed under pressure and that’s very reassuring, especially in my first couple of years as a young player to see that composure in a guy.
“He leads by example from the front and it’s comforting to see that influence in the team."
Student to sevens
From starting his rugby journey at Camberley RFC, Burgess’ potential was spotted by Harlequins where he progressed through their academy before choosing to go to Loughborough University where he continued to play.
His performances for Loughborough caught the eye of Championship side Cornish Pirates who signed him up, and he impressed in his two years in Cornwall to get a call-up to train with the England Sevens programme.
“I remember when he was playing for Cornish Pirates in the Championship and he was one of the most dynamic loose forwards going at the time,” added Amor.
“When I got the opportunity to coach England Sevens and met him for the first time, I was blown away by just what a nice person he was – genuinely the most professional, humble, just the nicest chap you could meet.”
And those sentiments of Burgess’ character are echoed by regular England Men Sevens captain Tom Mitchell, who misses out this weekend because of injury.
“Phil’s one of those guys who just has so much thought for other people and that is personally something that I value in someone else.
“It makes him such a good member of our squad as he’s always thinking about how he can go out of his way to help someone and he’s been doing that since he’s been with England.
“That makes him an amazing person to not only be in a team with in terms of playing rugby with him, but also the culture we’ve got here with England Sevens and the strength that he gives to that is amazing.”