Phillips sparks England's Euro Sevens bid

(IRB.COM) Friday 29 June 2012  
 Phillips sparks England's Euro Sevens bid
Former IRB Sevens Player of the Year Ollie Phillips in action during the last Rugby World Cup Sevens, in Dubai in 2009

Former IRB Sevens Player of the Year Ollie Phillips returns to action in an England jersey for the first time since May 2009 this weekend as he and his countrymen bid to defend their FIRA European Sevens Moscow title.

One year out from the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 at the Luzhniki Olympic Complex, England face Wales, hosts Russia, Georgia, the Netherlands and Ukraine at the same venue in the pool stages of what is the second of three rounds in the Euro Sevens circuit.

The other pool features defending European champions Portugal, Spain, France, Scotland, Italy and Germany.

Ben Ryan's side won the first event in Lyon, France on 3 June and are bidding to win their first FIRA Grand Prix, having finished second to Portugal last season.

The third round will take place in Odense, Denmark on 7-8 July and the final ranking from the three-event Series will determine which 12 teams take part in Europe's men's Rugby World Cup Sevens qualifier, in Portugal on 20-21 July.

England qualify automatically for the 2013 World Cup event, along with defending champions Wales and hosts Russia.

Alongside Phillips, England include World Series regulars Tom Mitchell, John Brake, Chris Brightwell, James Rodwell and Nick Royle.

Wales call up experience in Evans

In 2009 Wales won the last Rugby World Cup Sevens title in Dubai with a seasoned squad. By contrast, the are blooding a young squad of development players in the current European tournament. Last time out, the Welsh produced their best ever result in France by reaching the play-off for third place, a closely fought encounter in which Spain edged home with a 17-14 victory.

For the Russia tournament exciting talent Tom Grabham takes over the captaincy from Rhys Jones, while wing Ifan Evans has been brought in to add vital experience to a young team.
"Tom deserves such an opportunity because his level of performance and his maturity and leadership qualities within our environment have been excellent," said assistant coach, Gareth Williams.

"Ifan's scoring prowess on the World Series cannot be ignored and it will be good to see him back on the international stage working with an enthusiastic group of youngsters.

"England, the series leaders, will be favourites to win the group and we have been working to eradicate vital areas that cost us against them in the Lyon semi-final. Russia will also be keen to impress on home soil and avenge the draw we played out in Lyon to prevent them from progressing from our group into the Cup competition.
"Ukraine and the Netherlands complete our fixtures and these two teams showed in Lyon they have the capability to turn any side over at any time. The challenge has been plainly set out to our boys, and there is also the carrot that 12 months from now, the Sevens World Cup will be held in Moscow. Events here could be the start of an exciting road towards that competition for any individual involved."


Europe's women kick off direct qualifiers

Of even more significance in Moscow this weekend, direct qualification begins for the women's competition at Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013.

The cream of Europe will compete in Moscow, bidding to join hosts Russia and secure one of the five qualification places available via the region's 16-team tournament.

Wales, Ireland, Croatia and Scotland all kept their Rugby World Cup Sevens dream alive by progressing through a 22-team pre-qualifier in Belgium earlier this month.

England are seeded in first place, with Spain second and the Netherlands in third.