DUBAI // Simon Amor, who captained England to successive Dubai Rugby Sevens crowns in 2004 and 2005, is back in the UAE after a one-year break. Yet, unlike his former teammate Ben Gollings, with whom he shared so many glories, it is not in the white of the national team.
Amor, 29, has returned in a new guise as the coach of the England women's team, who will be playing as the Sporting Chance Foundation in the International Women's Tournament this weekend. The scrum-half quit playing at the top level, with the England sevens side and Premiership club Wasps, last season in order to get started on a new career in management. Even though he was still just 27 and at the top of his game when he stepped down, Amor had been there and done that. With a string of triumphs in Hong Kong and Dubai, as well being the inaugural IRB Sevens Player of the Year award in 2004, he had won just about everything the game had to offer.
The World Cup eluded him, and now he has the chance to right that wrong with the England women, who are the top seeds for next March's World Cup in Dubai. Amor said: "I'm delighted to be back. I decided 18 months ago that I had had my time with England sevens. Then the Women's RFU approached me to coach the team." Amor dovetails his role with the women with that as player-coach of London Scottish. He also holds a degree in management studies from Cambridge University, but he says none of his previous experience prepared him for coaching ladies.
"Unfortunately, it is just five training weekends per year, plus our three tournaments - the World Cup, Dubai, and one in San Diego in February. It is very much a part-time role. The players all have full-time jobs themselves, they all make a huge amount of sacrifices. "I don't think it is that different [to his playing days]. In terms of the attitude they adopt, it is up there with the professional men.
"From a coaching perspective it is a brilliant learning experience because they question every thing, which is wonderful because you have to know everything you are coaching or you get found out." Amor is back in harness with Mike Friday, his former coach. The duo became one of the greatest double acts in the short form's short history, in guiding England to successive Dubai crowns, as well as regular Hong Kong triumphs. Friday is mentoring his former charge as he takes his first steps in management, and it has not taken them long to rekindle the old magic.
Friday said: "We took the girls through an unbeaten season last year, and in the process became the first team to beat the NZ Maoris on consecutive weekends to win Amsterdam and then at the IRB leg at Twickenham." He added: "For me it was a challenge because I had never coached women, and I wanted to see if it was different and if we could transfer what we had done in the women's game into the men's game."