Barden swaps Afganistan for the Gold Coast

England’s Greg Barden has swapped the front line in Afghanistan with the Royal Marines for a full-time sevens career which will see him touring the world.

The 30 year old left the Royal Marines this year, ending 14 years with the military that included service in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Barden, from Poole in Dorset, is one of 12 full-time sevens players on England’s books who kick off the Sevens World Series on Friday on the Gold Coast in Australia, the first of nine global events this season.

At the same time he’s also preparing to open another new chapter in his life by developing an online business and consumer networking platform due to launch in February.

First of all, though, England launch their sevens campaign in Queensland before tournaments in Dubai (December 2-3) and Port Elizabeth (December 9-10) with nearly three months of pre-season work behind them.

Time has been called on Ben Gollings after 12 years and Dan Caprice has stepped into the Top 14 with Biarritz but the squad is deeper following the signing of the likes of Rob Vickerman, Chris Brightwell and Christian Lewis-Pratt from Aviva Premiership sides Newcastle Falcons, Sale Sharks and Leeds Carnegie respectively.

The return of the Army’s Isoa Damudamu to full fitness also adds a valuable weapon to their armoury.

Barden said: “It was the right time for me to move on [from the military] after 14 years that started when I was a 16 year-old.

“I’ve loved it and now I’ve gone from one close-knit family into another one. There are a lot of crossovers between rugby and the military. As a group you have that camaraderie and you do it for each other. We’re a tight group with no egos. We all want the same thing. The ultimate goal and the reason to play is to win and for us that means winning the world series.

“The squad’s been evolving for a long time and we’ve now got some people back in the fold like Rob Vickerman and Chris Brightwell and an up-and-coming one like [Saracens back] Marcus Watson.

“There’s a wide range of personalities and characters. I hope we can relax and that personality in the squad comes out on the field, and that we can express ourselves in the way we play. The coaches give us the tools and the framework but ultimately it’s up to us.”

Self-reliance and problem solving – right out of the Marines playbook – are part of the entrepreneurial urge that will see the launch of early in the New Year.

Barden, who has been helped by Ben McGregor from the Rugby Players Association, has developed the idea for “a social networking platform that links consumers and businesses, and helps both create new and mutually beneficial opportunities”.

For now, though, it’s put to one side as his teammates focus on the mutually beneficial opportunities on offer in Australia, the UAE and South Africa over the next three weeks.

England have never won the sevens world title – Samoa, South Africa and New Zealand have taken the last three – so making the right start is vital.

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