x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Coach inspired by Barcelona to invent individual style

Ben Ryan wants to replicate the La Masia style and keep the ball with short inter-passing.

Ben Ryan, the England rugby sevens coach, aims to borrow heavily from Pep Guardiola.
Ben Ryan, the England rugby sevens coach, aims to borrow heavily from Pep Guardiola.

DUBAI // Many have tried to imitate La Masia, the world famous coaching school of Barcelona football club, though few have succeeded.

Perhaps the secret lies in the shape of the ball. If Barcelona's success is difficult to replicate with a round ball, why not try an oval one? England begin the defence of their Dubai Rugby Sevens crown tomorrow and Ben Ryan, their coach, aims to advance their new playing style, borrowing heavily from Pep Guardiola and his team.

"Now we have more time with the players I want to have an English sevens way of playing," Ryan said yesterday.

"The way Barcelona play football is a concept I'd like to get into our sevens team. They have a lot of short inter-passing. You can do the same thing in rugby."

Ryan now has 12 centrally contracted players, up from last year's first crop of eight, and, as such, believes he has the best chance yet of formulating an individual style for his team.

"Barcelona also realise their side is quite small and they thought, the longer they have the ball the less they have to defend," he said.

"That is the same for us. We don't want to defend for long periods of time against big hulking Samoans and Fijians."

England may have cut their ties with Ben Gollings, the leading point scorer in the history of sevens, but they retain the core of the side who won here 12 months ago.

Dan Norton is expected to be fit, while Greg Barden, the new captain, is confident of shaking off the ankle injury he sustained in training at Rashid School yesterday.

"We didn't quite hit form [in the world series opener in Australia]," Barden said. "We want to go out there and show what we can do as a team, and hopefully that is what we are going to do this weekend."