x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Happy return for Varndell

Tom Varndell picked up from exactly where he left off three and a half years ago, as the World Cup Sevens favourites, England, set the standard on the opening night at The Sevens.

DUBAI // Tom Varndell picked up from exactly where he left off three and a half years ago, as the World Cup Sevens favourites, England, set the standard on the opening night at The Sevens. The England winger has been sent back to the abridged version of the international game in a bid to revive a career that started with great expectation at Dubai Exiles in 2005. Varndell marked himself out as player of rare potential back then, finishing as the leading try-scorer as England won a second successive Dubai Rugby Sevens title. Three relatively fallow seasons in the 15-a-side version of the game have followed, but he proved that has not dulled his potency in sevens last night. Just as he did in 2005, he scored with his very first touch of the ball as England stretched their legs to claim a 42-5 win over Hong Kong. Varndell claimed a double as did Ben Gollings, after England had made a slipshod start. They actually went behind when the current English plague of yellow cards was caught by Kevin Barrett. While they were down to six men, Mark Goosen, a South African expatriate who is training to be a pilot, went over to give Hong Kong a shock 5-0 lead. England's coach, Ben Ryan, was unconcerned by his side's slow start against Hong Kong. He said: "We know we are capable of winning this World Cup, but if you start thinking about finals at the this point it can all go wrong. Now it is all about Tunisia on Pitch Two at 11.22am for us." New Zealand, the current IRB World Series champions, flexed their muscles by beating Italy 42-0. The defending champions, Fiji, cast aside their troubled build-up with a 26-10 win over Georgia. South Africa, who won on their last trip to the city in November, dispatched Japan 26-5 in the final match of the opening evening.

pradley@thenational.ae