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Dear Editor,

With the UK Rugby 7s publication fast becoming the must read specialist 7s magazine, I felt it necessary to write so as to inform some of the less knowledgeable 7s critics a few home truths and facts. It is with disappointment that I feel compelled to write this letter in the aftermath of the reporting elsewhere, of Super Sevens Series and the Middlesex 7s, but write it I will. We as a team feel it is important to ensure the 7s family is fully

informed of all the facts surrounding the Samurai International team and the apparent “sour grapes” or perhaps jealousy and lack of acknowledgement of the quality and profile of players that were on show playing for Samurai International. This is not only unfair and disrespectful to the players themselves but also to 7s as a sport and its passionate following. We have looked at several sites and the write ups. As far as

Samurai International are concerned we are non events in terms of acknowledgement, detail and performance. For example, in the UR7s Middlesex report you would struggle to realise Samurai were even playing. The emphasis was very much placed on Esher (which whilst we don’t have a problem with this) there is nothing about Samurai International and their players. How is this an objective report where the performance of quality players and winners fail to be acknowledged. In all honesty the report did not do Esher justice, considering what they achieved on the way to the final. The other thing we find disappointing is that people and reports

are now stating there was only ever going to be one winner and that Samurai international should not have been allowed to put such a star studded side in etc. The essence of The Samurai International team is just that, to bring International 7s players from different nations to play together as a team. Furthermore there are also a number of other facts that people choose to forget or recognise, when putting an invitation team together for the Middlesex 7s. Lastly those that are knowledgeable about 7s realise you never take anything for granted when there is only 14 minutes in a straight knockout tournament. At the outset Middlesex organisers requested the highest

profile teams they could get, so they could seek to attract bigger crowds. They did not want or intend for the Middlesex 7s to end up as an extension of the Super Sevens Series. In fact 8 weeks before Middlesex, from the Super Sevens Series invitation teams, only the Army, Samurai International together with the winner of Rugby Rocks were definites to be invited to the Middlesex 7s. Samurai International started to invite players at least 6 weeks prior to Middlesex 7s. The 5 ULR sponsored players coming from overseas were invited and selected at this time, using our friendships and relationships around the world. This was carried out on the understanding that England, Wales, Kenya and 3 x Premiership sides were expected to participate. 6 weeks before Middlesex, the organisers were “hoping and suggesting” Wasps, Quins and Irish (all members of Middlesex

RU) were also going to participate. PRL were not happy for that to happen. With the PRL 7 series dates conflicting with Middlesex 7s the Premiership sides are obliged to play at JP Morgan 7s - as a result of the above the organisers turned to their other Middlesex County members being London Scottish and London Welsh. 4 weeks before the Middlesex 7s it was confirmed that England and Wales were fielding full strength teams. Confirmation was also expected from Kenya. In every other year, Middlesex 7s has been a very high

standard and the finals have been close, but this year with all the Premiership sides and International 7s sides pulling out it was a very different event. This shift in standard happened at a very late stage. So in summary to these points above, it should be clear to all

that when the Samurai International team was being put together we believed International sides and at least 3 Premiership sides were participating at Middlesex. Logistically we are sure that all will recognise, once an (overseas) player has been invited and flights booked we cannot just cancel and lose flight money, when we find out England/Wales/Kenya/Quins/Irish/Wasps are no longer participating. Not only is there the cash loss here, there is also a player respect element to inviting a player. Samurai International have a strong reputation as being straight with the players that are invited to represent. Furthermore, this eclectic squad was a true invitation team with southern and northern hemisphere teams represented. The team included 3 Fijians, 2 Kiwi’s and an Australian, which we also knew would put Southern Hemisphere bums on seats for Middlesex and that is exactly what the Middlesex Charity Sevens wanted and needed to achieve. Now, dealing with the comments of there only ever being

one winner. Samurai pride themselves of forward planning and tournament preparation which we believe has over the years played a big part in our success. In terms of gelling as a team and performing, as with all true invitation teams which are pieced together, they have very little or no time to gel and gain an understanding in each other and/or a common ground on communication and calls. Teams have no time to gel or train together and it was therefore always part of our forward thinking planning that Newquay was to be part of our preparation to defend our Middlesex 7s title. It is a fact that in Newquay the team agreed on 5 words of communication. In attack one set piece option play of lineout and scrum and 2 kick off formations. In defence an agreed system. This tournament was not about securing the Super Sevens Series. Interestingly enough as a result of their performances in the Sevens Super Series; Ed Telright, Warwick Lahmert and Gavin Dacey gained selection to the Samurai International team for Middlesex. Andy Vilk, Tim Walsh and Mike Fedo were selected as they are, when available, regular Samurai International players. Yes of course Samurai International also trained towards the end of the week leading into the Middlesex 7s. In terms of playing the match, as we all know by the very

nature of 7s there are no guarantees. We all remember the full strength England team last year going out to Wasps after only narrowly beating a very young Saracens team in the first round. All knowledgeable 7s people recognise that it is all about how you perform both individually and as a team in that next game, more so in a straight knockout tournament when this is hugely important. With only 14 minutes to perform, the bounce of the ball, a referee’s decision or a missed tackle can be the difference between winning and losing. Look at HFW Wailers at Middlesex for example, in their game with Esher. HFW Wailers were more than capable of giving Samurai International a real test as they did so the week before in Newquay, especially if they are a settled side with game time under their belts. There are countless examples this season alone illustrating that

nothing can be taken for granted in 7s; Esher at Middlesex, HFW Wailers in Amsterdam when they turned the form book on its head in the Semi final - against Samurai International. The way in which The Pups and Apache have performed this season, taking so called bigger scalps and in the Pups case winning the West Country 7s. Our final point is in relation to competitiveness of aspiring

passionate players. At least 90% of players want to play against the best to enable them to test and gauge themselves and to help them develop and improve as players. They also like to be able to say “I played against X and I put a hit in on Y”. Players love to knock over the so called Goliath!! - To be controversial it is very defeatist and amateurish to complain, moan and groan when a team of recognised specialists are there putting their reputations on the line. So in conclusion, we feel the Samurai International team

performance and players deserve recognition, if for no other reason than they won playing with passion professionalism and accuracy. The performances in particular of Esher, Brazil and the Pups need to be acknowledged but, facts mentioned above also need to be made to put everything in context when views and opinions are aired on the ethos of The Samurai International team. It is also clear to Samurai International that, too many people are only in possession of half the facts and are making judgements accordingly. The majority of the Super Sevens Series management teams recognise and applaud good performances and players, especially those people that have been involved in professional sport. The experienced and knowledgeable 7s management teams understand that a good invitation team on paper does not always lead to a good team on the pitch. In this instance credit and respect needs to be acknowledged to the players, as whilst they looked good on paper, they also gelled as a team and put a compelling performance together on the pitch, showing respect to all those they faced. Enough of the sour grapes and gripes by certain individuals, we are supposed to be rugby people!

Regards Terry Sands Samurai International RFC

2 / / Issue 4

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