Great Britain Sevens will compete for the first time this weekend when they play in Moscow in the opening round of the Rugby Europe Grand Prix Sevens Series.
The wider training squad gathered on Monday players have been allocated to two teams for the event, playing as the GB Lions and GB Royals. Each team features players from across the unions, with coaches Simon Amor and Gareth Williams considering a number of factors in their selection. Whether it is a Lions and Dirtrackers situation at this point seems unlikely, but the Lions look the marginally stronger side on paper.
The expanded squad have also had another two Scottish call-ups in the shape of Lee Jones (Glasgow Warriors) and Joseva Nayacavou (Scotland Sevens), although ironically neither player was involved in the dramatic final day of the London Sevens Series win which saw many calls for a boost in Scottish representation. They will serve as injury cover for James Rodwell and Charlie Hayter but will be given a full chance to fight for places.
Team GB Sevens Head Coach Amor said: “It’s been a very exciting first few days, the talent is exceptional and the way the guys have trained in the sessions shows real intent. They are bringing out the best in each other.
“We’ve put a big focus on the importance of an extraordinary GB spirit. The players have really embraced that and everyone knows we are on a unique and special journey together over the next seven weeks.
“There was a clear criteria for the two squads. Firstly, it was about the GB feel and making sure there was a good combination of the home nations in each team. Secondly, we wanted to look at certain combinations and specific positions.
“Heading into this first tournament, we also have some guys on limited game time as they return from injury, so someone like Cory Allen needs to be partnered in a squad with a player in the same position who can do a full 14 minutes. We need to manage players through this event as a three-week intense training block follows and we want them fresh for what will be a very competitive phase in our preparations.”
After only a handful of training sessions the two teams will remain together, but as Rugby Europe rules forbid them from mixing and matching – they are replacing Wales and England on the series in Moscow, Exeter (9-10 July) and Gdynia (16-17 July) – the enforced segregation of the two groups of players will hamper testing of combinations. The coaches Simon Amor and Gareth Williams will however be able to swap between days and get a good look at both groups.
“The players named in the Royal and Lions must now remain in those sides for the three tournaments, which is a challenge for us” said Amor. “We have the advantage of Sevens and the City to mix the groups up but from what I’ve seen of training in the last few days it is evident that this will be our most competitive environment to test different combinations.
“As a programme we have overcome a lot of challenges in the last nine months by adapting well and with integrity. The ability to handle these situations will be a big positive for us come Rio. With sevens being in the Olympics for the first time there is much unknown for all the competing squads. It will be different to what everyone on the circuit is used to and these experiences will stand us in good stead for that.”
Cory Allen, Tom Bowen, Alex Davis, Jamie Farndale , Alex Gray, Warwick Lahmert, Ollie Lindsay-Hague, Ruaridh McConnochie, Luke Morgan, Scott Riddell, Joe Simpson, Luke Treharne (C)
Mark Bennett , Dan Bibby , Phil Burgess, Sam Cross , James Davies, Richard de Carpentier , Lee Jones , Gavin Lowe, Tom Mitchell (C), Dan Norton , Mark Robertson , Marcus Watson
Fixtures for Sat 4th June (all times in BST with a live stream available via www.rugbyeurope.tv) :
8.22am GB Lions v Portugal
9.28am GB Royals v Georgia
11am GB Lions v France
12.28am GB Royals v Lithuania
2.22pm GB Lions v Poland
3.28pm GB Royals v Russia