x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Exciting times for England talents

Sides playing at the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens would be forgiven for feeling a touch of trepidation after looking over to see Daniel Carter as the water-boy for their opposition.

DUBAI // Sides playing at the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens would be forgiven for feeling a touch of trepidation after looking over to see Daniel Carter as the water-boy for their opposition. If the world's greatest fly-half is only deemed worthy of carrying the drinks, how good must their starting line-up be?

Well, when Carter was tasked with ferrying the isotonics to the Stefan's adidas BHF players at the Exiles 12 months ago, it had been a good couple of years since he won the last of his two International Player of the Year awards. His All Blacks side had just returned from a disappointing showing at the World Cup, too. With form like that, he could hardly expect to walk into the side. It would be tempting to say Carter was actually too old for Stefan's BHF, a side run by the Abu Dhabi Harlequins fly-half Jo Czerpak and his wife Liesa, who regularly field some of the world's most exciting young sevens talent.

But Bobby Skinstad, the former South Africa captain, gives a lie to that theory. He turned out for them in 2006, during his injury-enforced, and premature, retirement from the professional game. Within a year he was back in the Springboks squad which claimed the World Cup in Paris. This time around, Stefan's BHF - who are a charity side set up to raise money for the British Heart Foundation - are England's unofficial second team.

They will be playing in the International Invitational competition at The Sevens, and the England coach, Ben Ryan, wants to cast his eye over his back-up squad playing against top-quality opposition. After announcing his two squads, Ryan said: "We have put in a lot of hard work behind the scenes and we have every intention to make these next two seasons hugely successful and put in some world class performances."

In many ways, the Stefan's BHF side will boast even more talent than the England senior squad. They have nine players from Premiership clubs, while one of the national league contingent, Tony Roques, is one of England's most experienced sevens players. Not surprisingly, given that background, many of the players coming to play for Stefan's BHF are seen as some of the brightest talents in England - in particular Charles Simpson-Daniel.

The flyer, 18, who is the brother of the England winger James, only finished his A-levels at Sedbergh School, the alma mater of rugby greats such as Will Carling and Will Greenwood, in the summer. However, he is already being spoken of as a potential member of England's World Cup Sevens squad next March. "Our first aim is to make sure we do well enough to play on pitch one on the final day," the team's manager Liesa Czerpak said.

"Sporting Chance and the South Sea Drifters, who knocked us out last year, will be the teams to beat." @Email:pradley@thenational.ae