GB Sevens men have announced their wider training squad for the Rio Olympics which includes a combination of sevens specialists and 15-a-side players from England, Scotland and Wales.
The 25 players will gather on 30 May for a seven-week intensive training period involving a programme of four international competitions.
Dan Norton, the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series' fourth highest leading try scorer of all time, international captains Tom Mitchell and Luke Treharne, and experienced players such as Scotland’s Mark Robertson and Scott Riddell are among the 19 sevens specialists.
Named alongside them are 15s players, Cory Allen (Cardiff Blues), Mark Bennett (Glasgow Warriors), James Davies (Scarlets), Ollie Lindsay-Hague (Harlequins), Joe Simpson (Wasps) and Marcus Watson (Newcastle Falcons).
With sevens included in the Olympics for the first time, this group have a unique and exciting opportunity to compete for the 12 places in Team GB which will be announced together with the women’s squad on 19 July.
Team GB Sevens Head Coach Simon Amor said: “We have watched a significant amount of footage throughout the season of 15-a-side players and every sevens game from England, Scotland and Wales. Exciting talent was available to us and competition for places was tough. We’re now really looking forward to bringing this group together as one team and creating an incredible Great Britain spirit.
“One of the main strengths of the players who have been named today is their aggressive style of play in both attack and defence. Looking at how the games are won at the top level at the moment, it is very much about that physicality, teams who are fearless in the way they play.
“For the 15s players aiming to make that transition, recent sevens experience at the top level was important given how much the world of sevens rugby has progressed in the last three to four years. We were also targeting players in certain key positions to add strength in depth and complement the qualities of the specialists we already have.”
Bennett, who was nominated for Breakthrough Player of the Year after the Rugby World Cup, represented Scotland Sevens at the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and prior to that featured on the World Series in 2013, the same season in which Cory Allen played for Wales.
James Davies won his 13 tournament caps on the circuit between 2012 and 2014, during which time he also featured in the Rugby Sevens World Cup in Moscow and the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. Marcus Watson also competed in these events and scored over 400 points during the 26 series' tournaments he played for England Sevens.
Ollie Lindsay-Hague resumed his sevens career in Hong Kong in April, having represented England in 2010, while Joe Simpson’s inclusion reflects his ability to cover a number of positions with a skill set that supports the blend of the squad.
Leadership and experience is provided through a number of sevens specialists including James Rodwell, who set a new world record earlier this year after playing in 69 consecutive tournaments, and Scott Riddell who has competed in two Commonwealth Games, two Sevens World Cups and played in almost every minute of Scotland’s 2013-14 and 2014-15 World Series' campaigns.
“Throughout the season I have been in constant communication with Gareth Williams [Team GB Sevens Assistant Coach and Wales Sevens Head Coach] and Calum MacRae [Scotland Sevens Head Coach] and spent time with both teams in Singapore,” added Amor. “That experience was crucial in being able to select this squad. We have some very strong characters from all three countries and players who have shone in big games which is really important for us going into Rio. I know this group have an incredible work ethic and attitude.”
As part of Olympic preparations, two GB sevens squads will compete in four tournaments including the Rugby Europe Sevens Series in Moscow (4-5 June), Exeter (9-10 July) and Gdynia (16-17 July) as well as Sevens and the City at Allianz Park (2 July).
“It has been a demanding World Series for all teams but we have rested senior players at various points in the season,” said Amor. “This has had an impact on the results of England Sevens but has ensured we now have a squad which is fit to peak over the coming months. The priority last year was to ensure a top four finish and Olympic qualification, this year the aim was to ensure players were ready, come the end of the series, to give GB Sevens their all.”
GB Sevens Men:
Cory Allen (Cardiff Blues)
Mark Bennett (Glasgow Warriors)
Dan Bibby (England Sevens)
Tom Bowen (England Sevens)
Phil Burgess (England Sevens)
Sam Cross (Wales Sevens)
James Davies (Scarlets)
Alex Davis (England Sevens)
Richard de Carpentier (England Sevens)
Jamie Farndale (Scotland Sevens)
Alex Gray (England Sevens)
Charlie Hayter (England Sevens)
Warwick Lahmert (England Sevens)
Ollie Lindsay-Hague (Harlequins)
Gavin Lowe (Scotland Sevens)
Ruaridh McConnochie (England Sevens)
Tom Mitchell (England Sevens)
Luke Morgan (Wales Sevens)
Dan Norton (England Sevens)
Scott Riddell (Scotland Sevens)
Mark Robertson (Scotland Sevens)
James Rodwell (England Sevens)
Joe Simpson (Wasps)
Luke Treharne (Wales Sevens)
Marcus Watson (Newcastle Falcons)
The GB Sevens squad will be led by the following management group in Rio:
Simon Amor (Team GB Sevens Head Coach), Gareth Williams (Team GB Sevens Assistant Coach), Stevie Gemmell (Team Leader), Dan Cooper (Performance Analyst), Dan Howells (Strength and Conditioning Coach), Jo Larkin (Doctor), Remi Mobed (Physio)
In addition the following staff will support the programme over the first seven weeks: Ali Little (Physio, Scotland Sevens), Eifion Roberts (Strength and Conditioning, Wales Sevens) and Adam Fuge (Performance Analyst, Wales Sevens)
GB Sevens Women Update:
A squad of 23 GB Sevens players continue to train full time under Team GB Sevens Head Coach Simon Middleton and Assistant Richie Pugh. Ongoing Olympic preparations will be supported by Rugby Europe’s tournament in Kazan (11-12 June) and an invitational event in Tignes (14-16 July).
GB Sevens Women:
Claire Allan, Natasha Brennan, Abbie Brown, Rachael Burford, Heather Fisher, Victoria Fleetwood, Natasha Hunt, Jasmine Joyce (Wales Sevens), Stephanie Johnston (Scotland Sevens), Megan Jones, Alex Matthews, Fran Matthews, Sarah Mckenna, Katy Mclean, Marlie Packer, Alice Richardson, Emily Scarratt, Emily Scott, Michaela Staniford, Danielle Waterman, Joanne Watmore, Kay Wilson, Amy Wilson Hardy *Laurie Harries (Wales Sevens) has been withdrawn from the squad through injury
GB Sevens Women Management Group:
Simon Middleton (Team GB Sevens Head Coach), Richie Pugh (Team GB Sevens Assistant Coach), Nicky Ponsford (Team Leader), Zoe Eaton (Team Manager), Dave Gardner (Analyst), Paul McGinley (Physio), Katie James (Strength and Conditioning Coach), Joe Larkin (Doctor) and Celia Gillbe (Assistant Physio)
In addition coach Susie Appleby (England Sevens) will continue to support the programme through this final preparation period.