x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

England coach sees 'light at end of tunnel' ahead of Dubai Sevens

Ryan recalls Phillips and has mix of new and old players as the out-of-form side go for third successive title.

Phillips led England at 2009 World Cup Sevens.
Phillips led England at 2009 World Cup Sevens.

DUBAI // Ollie Phillips will return to the sevens sphere for the first time since being named world player of the year in 2009, having being included in England's squad for their Dubai title defence in two weeks' time.

Ben Ryan, the England coach, has moved to shore up a squad that was depleted by two long-term injuries in the fateful opening tournament of the World Series in Australia.

Mat Turner, the scrum-half who was the player of the tournament when England won in Dubai last year, is out with a broken ankle.

With Chris Cracknell also sidelined with knee ligament damage, Ryan will be grateful to call on the experience of Phillips, who captained England at the World Cup Sevens in Dubai in 2009.

Two uncapped players, James Lightfoot-Brown and Ollie Marchon, have also been included in the tour party to the UAE.

England are chasing a third successive Dubai title, but their World Series form has rarely been much worse.

They eventually lost to Spain in the third-tier final in the opening tournament on the Gold Coast, and Ryan acknowledged that whatever could go wrong did go wrong. "We got so many things wrong on so many levels, and the light at the end of the tunnel is that we still lost only one game in normal time, by two points to the Samoans," Ryan said.

"I would say it was - from what I gather - a little like a plane crash in that it wasn't just one big thing, it was a series of small things. A tackle here or a conversion there.

"There were 10 or 15 things that we did wrong. If we had got any one of them right we would have hit the cup and that might have pushed us on."

pradley@thenational.ae

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