x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

England try for revival

The former England coach, Mike Friday, has expressed deep concern that the RFU's indifference towards sevens may hamper the progress of the full national team.

Tom Guest of England races away to score a try during the Dubai Rugby Sevens tournament in 2007.
Tom Guest of England races away to score a try during the Dubai Rugby Sevens tournament in 2007.

DUBAI // The former England coach, Mike Friday, has expressed deep concern that the RFU's indifference towards sevens may hamper the progress of the full national team. The ex-Wasps scrum-half enjoyed a highly successful stint in charge of England's sevens team, before stepping down in 2006.

He quit the post in order to take up a new job in the City of London, where he now works for a global real estate company. However, the dismay he felt at the union's plan to cut back on some of the resources it had set aside for the sevens game hastened his departure from the job. Ben Ryan, Friday's replacement, has been handed less support than his predecessor was given - and has struggled to replicate his glories as a result.

However, after announcing two squads for next weekend's Dubai Sevens, including an unofficial second string playing under the guise of Stefan's adidas BHF in the International Invitational tournament, Ryan believes his side are ready to return to the top. He says the instability of the past two years is now over - but Friday is yet to be convinced. "I want to see England succeed, and I understand the bigger picture. I want to see these players progressing through. I do think the RFU need to review where sevens sits in the development plan.

"The one thing you need to ensure is that players come in and have a positive experience. There is no point bringing in players who haven't got a chance of playing England international rugby. "Likewise, you don't bring in guys who are too young because they would just get a negative experience of playing. Under Friday's stewardship, England became one of the world's greatest sevens teams, winning an unprecedented four successive Hong Kong Sevens titles, as well as back-to-back Dubai crowns.

Even more crucially for Friday, the sevens circuit proved to be a fertile breeding ground for players who went on to play for the full 15-a-side Test team. Of the 15 who started for England against Australia on Saturday, six cut their teeth at international level in the abbreviated form of the game. Friday added: "The aim was developing future England internationals - but our philosophy was winning development.

"We tried to win along the way, but it wasn't winning at the expense of the development of the player. "If you look at the England teams who have played the last few weeks, you see a lot of players who you saw in Dubai three or four years ago. "Circa 50-60 per cent of the squad played sevens under me. That is great, it just shows the value of the IRB Sevens circuit. "Playing in front of a packed house of 38,000 in Dubai is a Test match environment - you can't replicate that anywhere else."

@Email:pradley@thenational.ae