That winning feeling
December 7, 2011
The England Sevens players celebrate their success in Dubai © RFU
Winning! It has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? It's good to be part of an England side that successfully defended its Dubai Sevens title.
You can't celebrate for long, though. The following day at the crack of dawn we were up to begin what is always a brutal (and almost tougher than the tournaments themselves) travel day. You leave the comfort of the Crowne Plaza in Festival City and then it's onto a bus, through check in, on to a plane (find a film not watched on previous flight), then another check in, another plane (read book, second so far this trip, my English teacher won't believe it), then a bus journey, a scramble to find our bags and then collapse into bed and fall asleep.
Waking up in Port Elizabeth the next morning, however, and it was all worthwhile. To the sound of the sea and with clear blue skies we set about the task of building up to the next tournament with weights in the morning and rugby in the afternoon - with a thunderstorm mid-way through to liven things up. So far, so good here. It's unchartered territory and on our day off hopefully we'll get a chance to explore more of what this new destination has to offer.
Back to last week and Dubai. Our quarter final against New Zealand was a tough encounter, as was the semi against Fiji and having watched the games back on our long flight, both of them could have gone either way had it not been for some superb defence and never-say-die attitude.
Running out to a final in Dubai is a highlight of anyone's Sevens career. The crowd were and always will be special - full of vibrant vocal and well-lubricated expats all cheering us on. Even now the thought of running out on to the pitch makes me grin from ear to ear.
We couldn't have asked for a better first half against France with Mat Turner (voted the player of the tournament) running rings around the French as he had done against most people (he usually does the same against me in training) all weekend.
In the second half we took our foot off the gas and again let France come back at us, making for a tense final few minutes. But we scored again at the end to take it 29-12 and the fireworks and scenes that followed are now history and another fond memory of a place that feels like home.
A new challenge is upon us this week, not only as a group of men to back up last week, but as a squad to keep learning and doing the right things in preparation for the task of a third consecutive tournament of what has been a long enjoyable trip.
Our bodies are sore and we won't get any fitter or stronger this week, but we can make sure that we learn from our mistakes made at the weekend and constantly improve and move ourselves forward in the days leading up to the tournament.
A key ingredient is nutrition. Nandos is 100 yards away and rugby players being what they are when it comes to chicken guess where we've been for dinner!
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