DUBAI // An England rugby victory on the playing fields of New Zealand is usually rarer to come by than snow in the UAE. Both have, coincidentally, occurred this year. In fact snow is so rare in Ras Al Khaimah that their local dialect does not even possess a word for the white stuff which covered the northern emirate last month.
England, on the other hand, have tasted victory all around the globe on the Sevens circuit but success in New Zealand had always eluded them. That was until earlier this month when they recorded a momentous victory in the land of the long white cloud. It was quite a way for Ben Ryan, the England Sevens coach, to celebrate the first long-awaited win of his two-year reign. Under Ryan's predecessor, Mike Friday, England became a genuine powerhouse of the sevens game - which traditionally had been dominated by New Zealand and Fiji.
When Friday resigned in favour of a career in business, England suffered an alarming decline. They have rebuilt now, to the point that some have deemed them favourites to win next month's World Cup in Dubai. The new-found confidence stems from the dramatic win over New Zealand in their own back yard, a victory sealed when Ben Gollings converted Isoa Damudamu's last-minute try. "We pulled it out the bag in the last couple of seconds in the final, and that was a massive scalp for us as a side," said Gollings who played club rugby for Tasman in New Zealand.
"It showed the boys what it is like to win a tournament, and hopefully we can win a few more now. "It is not often an England side goes to New Zealand and wins, so for us to have done it ranks up there as one of the best tournament wins of my career." The former Harlequins fly-half reckons that England have been threatening this kind of victory. "If you look at our previous form, it has been waiting to happen," said Gollings, who is playing his 50th IRB tournament for England in San Diego this weekend.
"The boys have been working very hard this year on their fitness and on certain parts of our game. As long as we could put it all together, we were reasonably confident we could put it together at the top. "We always believed we were capable of doing it, not in an arrogant way, but you have to have that self-belief." firstname.lastname@example.org Ben Gollings, the leading point scorer in IRB sevens history, and his England teammates will be guests at a pre-World Cup Sevens dinner on March 2 at Emirates Towers, Dubai. For ticket information call 050 104 7206