England’s youngsters deliver on day one in Dubai

England 19 France 7

By Sally Price

There may have been seven new caps in the squad but England’s youngsters certainly delivered on day one of the Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens today, topping their pool.

England recorded three wins from three matches against Scotland, Zimbabwe and France to take them through to a quarter final meeting with Australia tomorrow. Despite all the media talk about Australiabefore the tournament they showed that experience counts for nothing when they beat an experienced Fijian side earlier this evening.

The match against France was tricky, with a franticcouple of minutes where Englandstruggled to take control of the game. It took the experience of Ben Gollings, who has been involved with the England Sevens team since 1999,and anopportunist chip and chase to take England into the lead as he touched the ball down over the line after five minutes of the first half.

Conditions worsened during the game with a howling wind and driving rain making it hard for the players. A great phase of attacking play by England eventually led to a second try for Gollings (Doncaster) and hissuccessful conversion meant England led 12 0 at the break.

Bath Rugby winger Nick Abendanon showed great defensive flair when he rescued a French tryearly in the second half. Substitution Marcel Garvey (Worcester) showed great strength and determination to carry the ball (and several French defenders) several metres towards England’s try line, before Abendanon managed to cross the line. The French missed a penalty in the last minute of the game, but were unsuccessful and the hooter sounded securing England’s position at the top of Pool B.

Speaking at the end of the first day England Sevens Coach Mike Friday said, “It has been an interesting day with all sorts of upsets and unexpected results. It just shows how competitive this IRB Sevens series is that anyone can literally beat anyone on the day. Fortunately we came out unscathed but there were a few hairy moments, especially against France. The fact we only let in one try today probably shows our defence in slightly better light than we deserve, and we will certainly be looking at our defence overnight. It needs to be a lot more effective and efficient on day two. The second day is a new tournament and if we mess up tomorrow we are out. It will really test our mettle tomorrow. The youngsters have made some mistakes today but they will learn from them fast, and we will show them the consequences of those mistakes tonight on the videos.”

Speaking on his debut Nick Abendanon (Bath Rugby) who scored two tries said, “Today was fantastic. The first game was ok but I really enjoyed the secondmatch as I played the whole game. I felt so tired I could hardly walk but the third game was ok. The atmosphere was incredible. My parents are here and I saw them briefly and they said they were really proud. I can’t wait till tomorrow and just hope I have done enough to get another starting place on the final day.”

Sale centre Andy Vilk, who scored three tries during the day, said, “Dubai is a great place to play sevens and it was great to be back playing England Sevens today. It is nice to have more ball in hand and get the most of the extra space. That was a tenacious French side but it was good for our young side to be tested like that and hopefully it will benefit us more tomorrow than if we had had an easy route to the quarter finals.”

England play Australia at 12.14pm (local / 8.14am GMT) tomorrow in the quarter finals.

Simon Amor (London Wasps), Andy Vilk (Sale Sharks), Nick Abendanon (Bath Rugby), Michael Hills (Sale Sharks), Ben Gollings (Doncaster), James Haskell (London Wasps), David Strettle (NEC Harlequins)

Replacements: Marcel Garvey (Worcester),Dom Shabbo (London Irish), Rob Thirlby (Gloucester).
Not used: Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers), David Doherty (London Wasp

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