Euro Grand Prix first step to RWC Sevens 2013

(IRB.COM) Friday 1 June 2012  
 Euro Grand Prix first step to RWC Sevens 2013
England and Tom Powell will be looking to go one better than their second place finish in last year's FIRA Grand Prix Series

England and Scotland have both announced that they will be blooding new, young talent in the upcoming FIRA-AER European Grand Prix Sevens Series, a precursor to the region's qualifying for RWC Sevens 2013.

The opening round of the three-event Series takes place in Lyon, France on 2-3 June with further tournaments in Moscow, Russia (June 30-July 1) and Odense, Denmark (July 7-8).

The Lyon event features European champions, Portugal, alongside England, Spain, Russia, France, Georgia, Scotland, Italy, Wales, Ukraine, Netherlands and Germany.

The final ranking from the three-event Grand Prix Series will determine which 12 teams take part in Europe's Rugby World Cup Sevens qualifier, in Portugal on 20-21 July 2012.

England qualify automatically for the 2013 World Cup event, along with defending champions Wales and hosts Russia, but they will want to go one better than their second place Grand Prix Series finish last year, when they finished runners-up to Portugal.

Joel Hodgson and Matt Williams will make their international Sevens debuts for coach Ben Ryan in Lyon, joining new full-time Sevens signings Mike Ellery, Jack Preece, Dan Bibby and Jeff Williams in France.

Ryan also includes experienced campaigners John Brake, Tom Powell, Nick Royle, Rob Vickerman and Andy Vilk as his side prepares to face Ukraine, Spain, Scotland, Georgia and the Netherlands in Pool play.

"These tournaments give us a great chance to bed new signings into our programme, have a look at some more for the future and for them all to show us what they’ve got,” said Ryan.

"The pressure in these tournaments isn’t as intense as it is in the HSBC Sevens World Series but the standard of sevens in Europe is now very high and that’s been demonstrated by sides like Spain and Portugal winning ‘core’ team status on the world series next season and Spain reaching a first-ever quarter final at the Marriott London Sevens.

"Over the next month we’ll get the chance to experiment a bit, look at new ideas and blood new players, and that should put us in a good place to start the build up to next season’s world series.”

Scotland build on Sevens player base

Scotland have also welcomed three new elite development players and two new contracted players into their set-up for the season, starting with the FIRA tournaments.

The players coming in on two-year contracts are scrum-half Russell Weir and back row forward Michael Maltman. They will be joined by teenagers Alex Glashan, Chris Dean and Neil Herron, who come in for the first time, and Rory Hughes, who earned his first Sevens cap in London a fortnight ago.

"It’s fantastic to bring in two new full-time contracted Sevens players and help them develop in their rugby careers," said Scotland Sevens head coach Graham Shiel.

"Following last year’s decision to use Sevens rugby as a development tool for professional rugby, we are delighted to bring in three new Elite Development Players who will be focussed on Sevens up until the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

"All three players have a different skills set and will have great opportunity to develop their strengths on the IRB 7s circuit, arguably one of the harshest rugby environments for young players to grow."

England Sevens squad for Lyon: Dan Bibby, John Brake, Mike Ellery, Joel Hodgson (Newcastle Falcons), Tom Powell, Nick Royle, Rob Vickerman, Andy Vilk (Rugby Lions), Jack Preece, Jeff Williams, Matt Williams (Bristol Rugby), Aaron Myers (Westoe).

Scotland 2012/13 contracted Sevens squad: Colin Gregor, Andrew Turnbull, Struan Dewar, Mark Robertson, James Fleming, Russell Weir, Michael Maltman, Rory Hughes, Neil Herron, Chris Dean, Alex Glashan.