x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Dubai Sevens a 'launch pad' for England

England will stage their assault on the IRB World Sevens series in Dubai, according to record-breaking fly-half Ben Gollings.

DUBAI // Next weekend's Dubai Rugby Sevens provides a "massive" launching pad from which England will stage their assault on the IRB World Sevens series, according to record-breaking fly-half Ben Gollings. Gollings and his teammates, who arrived in Dubai on Thursday, got their first run-out at The Sevens ground yesterday evening in an hour-long training game against Arabian Gulf Rugby Football Union (AGRFU). Afterwards Gollings, who with 2,042 points is the all-time leading points-scorer in sevens history, outlined his team's plans to go not just one better in Dubai where they came second to South Africa in last season, but improve their third-place finish in the World Series too. "Dubai is massive for us," he said, after his side put together a dominating training display against the AGRFU. "It's a big marker, especially for our young players who today had their first real test as part of the squad. "We reached four finals and won two of them last season but, in terms of our goals, we want to use Dubai to improve that and today gave us a chance to really work together as a team." Yesterday's training session allowed both teams to practice set pieces in a match-like atmosphere and focus on both defensive and attacking aspects of their games. England could claim to be happy with their draw as they face Russia, the USA and Rugby World Cup Sevens semi-finalists, Kenya, in Pool C, but Gollings warns there is no such thing as an easy game in sevens. "All these teams pack a punch, especially Kenya. And the inclusion of sevens in the Olympics may just have seen some extra investment for the smaller teams who could surprise us," he said. Gollings remembers the disappointment England suffered after coming back from 12-0 down at the break last time, only to be pipped 19-12, when their injury-hit team was unable to hold off South Africa's Ryno Benjamin's last-minute try. "That was tough," said Gollings, whose team had beaten World Cup holders Fiji and series champions New Zealand to pave their way to their first Dubai final since 2005. "We have worked hard to get here. This is a great tournament and we are looking to start our season off on the right note."

stregoning@thenational.ae