x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Dan Norton dives into action for England at the Dubai Rugby Sevens

Dan Norton on wing got England flying high against France at the Emirates Airlines Dubai Sevens, setting them up against New Zealand next.

Dan Norton takes to the air to score a try against France in England's 29-12 victory at the HSBC Sevens World Series being held at The Sevens in Dubai.
Dan Norton takes to the air to score a try against France in England's 29-12 victory at the HSBC Sevens World Series being held at The Sevens in Dubai.

DUBAI // Dan Norton, the England wing, took up where he left off 12 months earlier with a five-try haul on the opening day of the Emirates International Trophy, but it brought his side a dubious reward Friday night.

The fast-stepping wing only scored one try here last year - and that arrived in the final minute of the competition.

It was a valuable one, however, as it decided the final in England's favour against Samoa.

His feats on Friday night, including a hat-trick in the final match of day one against France, were well received by the 43,000 crowd at The Sevens.

All it earned England, though, was a quarter-final against the world series champions, New Zealand, this morning.

"Whatever side we face, we have to beat them all to be No 1 in the world," said Greg Barden, the England captain, who was sporting two stitches in a facial wound last night.

"We recognise it and we have done it before. New Zealand are just another team. We will give them the respect that is due, but ultimately it is about us.

"That is the way this team works."

England were vastly improved from the opening leg of the series last weekend, where they were knocked out in the quarter-finals in Australia.

Much of their success was due to the form of Norton and Mat Turner, who scored four tries yesterday, each of whom left Australia carrying injuries.

"It is great that Dan has some sparkle in his boots and he is demanding the ball on the wing," said Ben Ryan, the England coach.

"The forwards gave absolutely fantastic ball to our backs today. As soon as Dan gets space he is going to be lethal."

England will be hoping the Dubai-effect will work in their favour against the New Zealanders this morning.

"We learnt our lessons from last week, and we started to play a bit more and express ourselves," Norton said.

New Zealand finished second in their pool after they lost their final match of the day to a South Africa side shorn of the world's leading sevens exponent, the injured Cecil Afrika.

"It was probably the wake-up call we needed," said Gordon Tietjens, the New Zealand coach, of the defeat to South Africa. "The guys didn't play well and they accept that. It was going to be a tough quarter-final whoever we played, we knew that."

Fiji continued their impressive form from last weekend, when they won the opening leg of the series in Australia, by picking up three wins on day one.

Samoa, last year's beaten finalists, were the biggest casualties in the Trophy. Defeat to Fiji meant Argentina advanced from the pool at their expense. South Africa's prize for beating New Zealand is a last-eight meeting with France.

"Lots of people never get the chance to play against New Zealand, so when you do you have to step up and take it, and we did that," said Kyle Brown, the South Africa captain.

pradley@thenational.ae