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MONTHLY // TOURNAMENT REVIEWS


PREMIERSHIP SEVENS


The JP Morgan Asset Management Premiership Sevens has just completed its second competition. It is exclusive to the top tier clubs of the 15s game. Qualifiers are played over 3 Friday evenings between groups of four teams with the top two from each round facing off in the final. This is an intriguing format with 6 ties in each qualifier lasting about the same time as a normal 15’s match. Last year the competition was put together at relatively short notice but still attracted up to 6-7,000 attendance. Last year Saracens and Newcastle contested the final, Saracens having breezed through scoring 18 tries with a point’s advantage of +80. The Falcons had faced tougher games and came through the final groups narrowly denying Harlequins the place by virtue of a 10-10 draw with Exeter Chiefs. Saracen’s duly took the trophy with three tries to beat Newcastle 17-5. Most spectators came away satisfied by the exciting format through there was some disappointment at the lack of big names on display and the Saint’s pool evening was weather affected. Overall though it was well received and may have created some further interest in the short format version of rugby. So what can fans expect from this


year’s competition. Well, let’s deal with the disappointment first which is that, with the World Cup preparations in full swing, almost all the internationals would inevitably be missing. However, this is going to be the case for all domestic rugby until the end of October. As with every cloud though there is a silver lining in the shape of an opportunity to use the tournament to look at the future. Howard Graham, who is coach of Harlequin’s Academy and also player coach with White Hart Marauders, one of the top elite invitational sides, is well placed to comment on this year’s event. He said that you could expect to see a mix of experienced players


who have been underutilised last season trying to push their way back into the first team squad and new, younger players trying to catch the eye of coaches who are already thinking about what the starting line up will look like with so many internationals away for the first two months of the season. So for all those out on the park each Friday there was a lot to play for. Gary Meechan, Coach at Warriors verbalised


the sentiments of most sides saying “The JP Morgan Asset Management Premiership Sevens Series is a fantastic opportunity for us to get an early look at a number of young and talented players within the Worcester ranks. This is a tremendous chance for them to perform on a big televised stage and demonstrate to the senior coaching team where they are in terms of development before we lead into our pre- season games and the Aviva Premiership campaign. We are not even considering winning the competition - this is more about the players showing what they are capable of. Any players who step forward and show themselves in a good light have achieved just as much as winning games.” Last year Saints players Jamie Elliott, Ben Nutley and Ryan Glynn turned their experience in the tournament into first team appearances in the LV= Cup and Aviva Premiership Rugby, and Academy Coach Alan Dickens said that there is no reason this why this could not happen again this season. There would also be returnees from the recent World Junior Championships where England were U20s runners up to New Zealand, such as Warriors Andy Short and Irish’s Guy Armitage (4th of the 5 brothers) and players hoping to show that they have what it takes to step up from the Championship such as Gloucester’s Mark Woodrow. We asked Howard what would be the main


differences to expect between this tournament and other Sevens going on domestically, involving the top elite sides such as Middlesex and the Super Sevens Series. His view was that


the Premiership players are better rugby players but not necessarily better sevens players. They will be quicker and stronger and may have better individual skills however, as the elite sides are playing regularly they can be better at that format. He also pointed out that the tournament comes at an awkward point in the summer for the Premiership as they are on the cusp of moving from a primarily conditioning phase into the preparation for pre-season matches. Several such as Gloucester are about to leave our shores for their summer training camps. It is though, difficult to find a point anywhere in the rugby calendar where this would fit and as it is a great spectator game it would be a shame to deny fans the only opportunity to see their clubs in Sevens action. In the Pool fixtures; at Bath Harlequins


cruised into the finals and Bath beat Exeter to their place courtesy of a better for tally, despite losing to them as they both ended up on the same points with Irish the other losers. At Northampton, Saracens also made it look easy while Wasps joined them by virtue of a narrow win against Gloucester in the last match leaving Saints at the bottom of that table.


In


the final Pool played at Sale’s Edgeley Park the Falcons and the Sharks were far too good for the Warriors and the Tigers. On a pleasant summer evening somewhere


in the region of 7,000 watched the finals played out once again at the Stoop. Last year’s finalist were again favourites though Harlequins and Sale fans, both of whose sides contained players with sevens experience, would say different. Harlequins opened brightly disposing of Wasps 19-0. Sarries then blew away Bath scoring at will to finish 38-7. Wasps returned to face Newcastle who in a similar clinical manner removed them from the tournament by the same score with Luke Fielden claiming a first half hat-trick. Sale’s first match provided a better contest and initially Sale dominated Saracens and had several opportunities to score


42 / www.ukrugbysevens.com / Issue 4


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