DUBAI // David Strettle, the winger, agreed to return to England's sevens squad for the World Cup via a request on Facebook from the team's coaching staff. The Harlequins speedster was one of the stars of the code before making a successful step up to England's full squad two years ago, and said yes to a recall on the internet networking site.
However, he is currently on his way back from another in a long line of injuries, and his club side eventually ruled against him returning to Dubai. The prospect of England pitting Strettle, who scored five tries in one half on his IRB sevens debut, alongside Tom Varndell was a mouthwatering one for England's coaches, Ben Ryan and Russell Earnshaw. Yet it is barely a hardship that they are left with the core of the squad who have taken them to the top of the IRB Series - plus the jet-heeled Varndell.
"The likes of Danny Care, Tom Guest and James Haskell are all desperate to play sevens as they all love it," said Ryan. "We are not in the bump and grind of the Premiership, where perhaps they are told not to off-load, or not to run with the ball. Given the chance, they would love to pull on the white shirt." For the first time in Ryan's two-year reign, England are entering a tournament as favourites. Their form over the past month, when they won in Wellington for the first time and reached the final in San Diego, is the best of any of the 24 sides competing at The Sevens. The favourites tag has been hard earned, according to Ryan, and he expects his players to revel in it rather than be burdened by it.
"This side have got the best chance to win the World Cup since 1993," added Ryan. "We know we have got a World Cup-winning side here. "They will have to be absolutely world-class, world champions if they are going to beat us this weekend, and we will take our hats off to them if they manage it." Ryan also believes Varndell will be "a sensation" in harness with the Leeds winger Tom Biggs. "Since [November's Dubai Rugby Sevens] we have lost Uche Odouza, and we knew we needed another class winger.
"We knew one would do the job and Tom was always our first choice. Him and Biggsy are going to be a sensation." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org