Ryan turns to youth as England 7s head Down Under
January 27, 2007

England Sevens Coach Ben Ryan has named a young and exciting squad for the next legs of the IRB Sevens in Wellington and San Diego.

With the average age of the players just 23, the focus for England remains on developing youngsters and testing them on the tough international sevens circuit.

Eighteen year old David Smith, a member of the Intermediate National Academy, played England Under 19s earlier this month against Italy and has earned his first international sevens call up.

The other uncapped player is Mark Foster from Gloucester. The squad also includes two of the players who earned their first caps in December - Danny Gray (Bristol) and Charlie Amesbury (NEC Harlequins).

This will be Ben Ryan's first IRB Sevens tournament in charge of England and he is excited about the squad heading to Wellington on Sunday.

"Sevens is all about developing young players for England and moving them along the elite player pathway. This squad includes several young and largely inexperienced players who are all breaking into their premiership first teams.

"Wellington and San Diego will test these youngsters both mentally and physically and we will get a good indication of how they can cope with this level of international rugby. I am really pleased that both David Smith and Mark Foster will earn their first caps. I was very impressed watching David in action for the 19s and have coached Mark previously when he was at Whigift School. The great thing about Mark is that he knows how to score tries!"

The tournament also marks a return to the squad for Gloucester's Luke Narraway, Ben Russell (Saracens) and Nils Mordt (London Irish) who is making his first sevens return since a serious knee injury last summer.

Wellington will also be Tony Roques' first appearance since recovering from a career threatening leg injury in October 2005. Ryan said, "It is a great boost to the squad to have Tony back and full fit. His injury was very serious and it is an illustration of his dedication and professionalism that he has got himself back to fitness and back on the international circuit."

Ryan continued, "We have a strong core of experienced players such as Andy Vilk and Rob Thirlby, led by Simon Amor (London Wasps), who have several tournaments worth of experience under their belts to help the youngsters.

"The two young lads who played in Dubai and George were impressive and I am looking forward to watching them improve and develop over the next couple of weeks. People may be surprised by the average age of our squad but all I will say is underestimate England at your peril!"

England face Scotland, Papua New Guinea and Samoa in the pool stages of Wellington - a tournament in which they traditionally underperform. England won the USA Sevens in Los Angeles last season, and will be looking to repeat history this year when the tournament moves to San Diego. However, Kenya, Australia and the host nation stand in their way.

England Sevens captain, Simon Amor, said, "Wellington is one tournament where real success has previously eluded us, but with such talent in the squad we have a real chance this year - although several teams will be trying to make sure we don't!"

England are currently in third position in the IRB Sevens, with six tournaments still remaining.

England Sevens squad for Wellington and San Diego:
Charlie Amesbury (NEC Harlequins)
Simon Amor (London Wasps) Captain
Mark Foster (Gloucester)*
Danny Gray (Bristol Rugby)
Michael Hills (Sale Sharks)
Luke Narraway (Gloucester)
Nils Mordt (London Irish)
Tony Roques (Exeter Chiefs)
Ben Russell (Saracens)
David Smith (Northampton Saints)*
Rob Thirlby (Gloucester but currently loaned to Redruth)
Andy Vilk (Sale Sharks)

* uncapped

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