The stark realisation of arriving at work this morning was having to turn my calendar from April to May!! I know at some point during the year the words ‘where has this year gone’ are always muttered by nearly everyone.
But having started the England Sevens World Cup training programme in January and looking at the calendar of training weekends, followed by tournaments, followed by more training, followed by more tournaments, it looked like an endless circle of events that would never actually make it to the culmination of it all; the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow on June 29-30.
The ‘business end’ of the programme has now certainly arrived in style; the Marriott London Sevens is next weekend (May 11-12), the final round of the IRB World Series in Amsterdam is on May 18-19 and then there are two legs of the European Seven Series in June before the World Cup. And all that happens in eight weeks! I think using the adjective ‘exciting’ doesn’t quite do the feeling of myself and the team justice.
Anyway London preparation is in full flow and Barry Maddocks has announced a very strong looking squad to take on Australia, Spain and France in a very tough pool. We are welcoming some seasoned Sevens players back in the squad with the likes of Alice Richardson, Jo Watmore, Heather Fisher and Natasha Hunt bak and they’ll all be eager to get back and make big impressions.
I was lucky enough to be part of the squad that won last year in London and the atmosphere and support we all received was incredible. It’s always great to have home support and with an expected record crowds of around 110,000 over the weekend, and the safari theme, the weekend is shaping up to be a quite a spectacle.
Looking beyond London, the squad will then fly out to Amsterdam for the final leg of this year’s IRB World Series. New Zealand are currently heading up the table, and reaching the semi-final will be enough for them to secure the title. We are currently second after our second place finish in China in March - secretly we are hoping we somehow draw New Zealand in the quarter finals to keep us in with a shout of the title!
China, where the third round of the World Series was held, was a very interesting and different tour from many I have been on in the past! Besides the rugby, in which we played some good stuff but ended up losing to NZ in the final, the country itself and the food was unlike anything most of us had experienced before. First of all the weather was a little random for their ‘summer time’ - we all had high expectations and shorts and flip flops filled our luggage.
Although obviously being warmer than England, the monsoon, thunder and lightning stricken town of Guangzhou took us all slightly by surprise. At one point we all feared the world was about to end, when the sky (at 2.30pm) turned as black as the night and the thunder, some of the loudest I’d ever heard, closed in on the stadium. We were hurried off the pitch during our warm up and the game delayed by 30 minutes. The food was a similar story…certainly unlike any Chinese I have ever tasted; suspicious looking meats and bizarre combinations were the choices for Breakfast, lunch and dinner.
They do, however, know how to boil rice well and that became the staple diet for most of us during the week. The normally stringent dietary needs of our squad went completely out of the window when we all returned home, as for a few days at least, all of our favorites were consumed.
Get your tickets for the Marriott London Sevens at www.ticketmaster.co.uk