x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Things look brighter for England at The Sevens

England were on the brink of going out of the tournament but a last-gasp win over Fiji followed the shock defeat by Portugal.

England's James Rodwell, in orange shirt, on the attack against Fiji yesterday. 

Bryn Lennon / Getty Images
England's James Rodwell, in orange shirt, on the attack against Fiji yesterday. Bryn Lennon / Getty Images

DUBAI // Ben Ryan, the England coach, forced his players to wear their nauseatingly garish orange change strip for their decisive pool match against Fiji last night in a bid to snap them out of their slumber.

England were on the brink of going out of the tournament after a shock 14-12 defeat at the hands of Portugal.

Ryan admitted he was already fearing the conversation he would have faced with his bosses at Twickenham for missing out, despite them having recently invested in sevens contracts.

However, they earned a quarter-final place thanks to a tense 26-21 triumph over the Fijians. Both sides were wearing their change kit, even though England had won the toss allowing them to wear their traditional colours.

"We were supposed to wear white, but I decided I would put the music I wanted on in the dressing room and wear the bright orange shirts," Ryan said.

"I played a song by an Essex band, Missing Andy, called Made in England. I played it during the Commonwealth Games and the boys had a go at me for using it.

"I thought, 'Stuff it, this is going on. I'll play it loud and let's get on with it.'

"We are an elite side and we need to make sure they are not the sort of things we need to get us up, and that we professionally prepare to play well."

Victory against Fiji was secured via a last-play try by Simon Hunt.

"We had sent ourselves to jail in the first place," Hunt said, referring to the upset against unheralded Portugal.

"We went off plan against Portugal, which was probably down to first-tournament jitters. We did what we needed to do, and it was like Phoenix from the flames in our ridiculous Phoenix from the flames kit.

"We want to win a series, and we are going to be in some holes like that, so it was good that we managed to dig ourselves out."

England now face undefeated Australia in the last eight. The Australians have retained a mere three players from their trip to the Commonwealth Games and just two have played before at the Dubai Sevens.

However, they were impressive in winning all three pool matches yesterday, during which they defeated their regular rivals, South Africa.

"We are really proud to have got through," said Bernard Foley, the Australia captain. "[England] are our arch-rivals and The Ashes are on at the moment, so there is extra incentive to try and smash them."

Samoa, the HSBC World Series champions, face the United States in the first quarter-final this morning. The Fijians meet South Africa, and New Zealand, the defending Dubai champions, meet Wales.

The Arabian Gulf failed to gain a victory on opening day despite making a blistering start in their opening game against a bedraggled Kenya side.

Kenya were playing in kit borrowed from Zimbabwe as their own strip had been lost in transit, and they found themselves down two tries within three minutes.

The Arabian Gulf dominance was total at that point, but they eventually subsided to a 31-19 defeat.

"We were always wary that they had the skills and speed to get back into the game, and we found ourselves wanting in defence a few times," Taif al Delamie, the captain, said.

The home side also lost out in their remaining pool matches against Samoa and Wales. They did at least have the consolation of scoring the try of the day, a fine individual effort by Tim Fletcher, the Dubai Dragons back who was exceptional in his first Dubai Rugby Sevens.

His teammate, Sean Hurley, believes the Gulf can still rouse themselves for a bid for a trophy today.

"When we retain the ball, we can carve up any of these teams," he said. "We are going to take home some silverware."

pradley@thenational.ae