If you’re a fan of England you get used to disappointment – doesn’t matter which sport, we always seem to fall that bit short.
We have our moments of course – 1966, 2003, Ashes, Olympics, but we rarely seem to sustain triumph over extended periods – although we are pretty bloody good at cycling at the moment. It’s okay – I mean who wants to be at the top of everything all the time?
Well, I do for one – although I’d settle for just being the best at rugby for most of the time. That honour falls to New Zealand who seem to have been at number one for most of my life. Even they have their downs though – winning just two of the seven world cups that have been on offer.
I’ve been to New Zealand a few times and they are all totally obsessed with rugby – to the point that they make the Welsh and South Africans look positively indifferent. Not surprisingly therefore, there has been much hand wringing and angst in the land of the long white cloud regarding the national tragedy that ended up with them losing their first ever Commonwealth 7s match and only picking up a silver medal (oh we should have been so unlucky!).
The Glasgow 7s was the most watched event of the games in NZ (surprise surprise) and they will have been mortified – the only thing worse would have been if they’d gone down to the Aussies or us! They are now looking to Rio and there is pressure for Gordon Tietjens (the most successful 7s’ coach in history) to include All Blacks in his squad for the Olympics.
Guys like SBW, Israel Dagg, Ben Smith and Julian Savea are being mentioned. Sir Gordon has pointed out that 7s is a specialist game that needs adapting from 15s – he has stated that any ABs he adds to the squad will need to be available for the 2016 7s circuit to adjust. This may not be to the liking of Super rugby sides but the lure of a gold medal might actually prevent some big names taking up lucrative contracts in Europe or Japan after next year’s World Cup.
Using top players from the full game may not work anyway – as the Aussies found out in Melbourne 2006 when Wendall Sailor, Lote Tuquiri, Chris Latham and Matt Giteau were included. When we played 7s (that’s way back when) it was at each end of the season and there the squad all came from the 1st XV – we did however, play the game differently to most teams – using 6 backs and 1 forward, our opposition usually had 3 or 4 forwards plus speedy blokes.
Bush’s strategy (which is a posh word for how we played) was to have 6 fast blokes plus a serious flyer. We fielded a scrum half (Hickey), stand-off (Locks), 2 x centres (Paddy and me), full back (Bush), open side (Kev A) and a wing (Floss). Boney (wing) and Tay (blind side) made up the squad.
Paddy and Bush were chunky enough to hold their own in the scrum with Kev whilst I pissed about with the other backs. There’s a couple of sections in here somewhere about 7s if you’ve got f**k all else to do and you’ve missed Bargain Hunt. We played the game differently to how we played 15s – and that gave us an edge.
It worked too – and I have a collection of battered tankards, medals and pennants to show for it (or at least I would if I could be arsed to hunt around in the loft). If you watch the 7s’ circus it is easy to see that it has become a specialist game in its own right – we used it to get fit pre-season, to have fun at the end and to collect a load of useless mementos. I bloody loved it, but wouldn’t have sacrificed 15s to play it all the time (too bloody knackering for a start!)