England's sevens debut in doubt
November 8, 2000

England's presence in this season's World Sevens Series is the latest possible casualty in the on-going dispute amongst England's top clubs.

According to reports in The Daily Telegraph, English First Division Rugby have told their 12 clubs not to release players for the first two tournaments later this month unless the row over promotion and relegation is settled.

This instruction goes against an announcement in September when the clubs committed themselves to supporting a new national squad under the direction of Adrian Thompson, the first full-time sevens manager appointed by the RFU.

That announcement indicated that the clubs would aim to release one player each per tournament in a 10-event series that begins in Durban later this month. Now Thompson, having drawn up one squad list, is faced with selecting a new group drawn from Second Division clubs downwards.

Howard Thomas, the acting chief executive of EFDR, said the clubs supported the sevens concept, but until the dispute was settled players would not be released. There was no suggestion that the boycott would be extended to the senior squad who start the autumn campaign on Saturday week against Australia at Twickenham.

England are trying to embrace sevens after years of lukewarm support and the appointment of Thompson, the former Wasps and Harlequins specialist, was looked upon as a step towards a growing, and lucrative, branch of the sport.

A further reason for the changing policy was the decision of the International Board that unless England entered all the circuit's events the RFU would not gain approval to hold a tournament next May.

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