x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

England have high hopes for a Dubai Sevens hat-trick

The strength in depth in their squad has given Ben Ryan's men hope of retaining their title next month.

England are going for a hat-trick of Dubai Sevens titles.
England are going for a hat-trick of Dubai Sevens titles.

Ben Ryan, the England coach, is confident a bolter will emerge from his injury-hit squad to give the defending champions a chance of a third successive title at the Dubai Rugby Sevens next month.

Despite being better resourced than ever before, England started their assault on this season's world series in listless fashion, with serious injury adding to the insult of losing to Spain in a consolation final at the Gold Coast Sevens.

Chris Cracknell, the indefatigable forward who has been an England regular under Ryan, went under the knife on Wednesday to repair the cruciate ligament he injured at the start of the tournament in Australia.

While Cracknell is liable to be out for some months yet, Mat Turner, the player of the tournament when England won here last year, is also set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

The speedy half-back broke his ankle and tore ligaments on the Gold Coast and is not expected back until next year.

However, despite the loss of two key players, Ryan is optimistic he still has enough firepower left in his 19-man centrally-contracted squad to be successful at The Sevens at the end of next month.

"Last year, Mat Turner wasn't playing very well going into Dubai then he was sensational, and the year before that Ollie Lindsay-Hague was not doing well at all for us then in Dubai he was stellar," Ryan said. "There is somebody within our ranks who is going to do the job in five weeks' time, who is not going to be very lauded but go on and light it up, I hope."

Ryan has good reason to look forward to the trip to the UAE, even with their injury problems.

England have a fine record at the showpiece occasion on Dubai's sporting calendar, having won the Emirates International Trophy four times in the past eight years.

However, the coach warned that his side will have to raise their level of performance markedly from that in Australia if they are to stand a chance of success here.

"Everyone knows there are some standards and non-negotiables," said Ryan, whose side have been drawn in a pool with South Africa, Samoa and Portugal.

"The ones who get on that plane know they will have to work hard to either correct what they didn't get right, or force their way in and bring some energy."

pradley@thenational.ae

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