Northampton Saints’ Sam Olver is ready for Project Coventry as his side bid to reach the final of the Singha Premiership Rugby 7s Series.
And having just missed out on the finals last season when the group stages where held at the Ricoh Arena, the fly-half is desperate to avoid the same fate this year and book a return to Coventry, which will this year host the finals.
Northampton will host Group C on Friday evening, where they will take on Gloucester Rugby, Harlequins and Saracens in a bid to join Ospreys, Cardiff Blues, Exeter Chiefs and Wasps in next month’s final.
And having featured in the tournament over the past three years, including last year’s group stage, Olver is relishing the opportunity to kick off the new season in style.
"I’ve been involved for the last three seasons now, and I played over at Wasps’ ground last year in the Singha 7s which was a great experience," said Olver.
“We didn’t quite make it through to the final stages but it was still a really good experience and something you can learn a lot from.
“It’s a competition I always look forward to. It’s nice after putting in a lot of hard work on the training field and hours in the gym to be able to get some competitive rugby in finally.
“The Singha 7s is the first opportunity to put your hand up, especially for some of the really young lads coming in as it’s the first bit of competitive rugby they will play for the Saints' first team.
“Hopefully we can get a good crowd in too. It was here two years ago and it’s really exciting. We had 11,000 people come along which created a brilliant atmosphere.”
After missing out on the play-offs in Aviva Premiership Rugby last season, as well as failing to make the knock-out stages of the European Rugby Champions Cup, Northampton are targeting a bounce-back season.
For Olver the challenge is to put pressure on Steven Myler and JJ Hanrahan for a first-team spot, and he is keen to use the Singha 7s as a springboard for a much-improved campaign.
“The 7s is always a great competition to watch for because the crowd see lots of free-flowing rugby, lots of tries and high-scoring games. We’ve got some quick lads involved this year too so we’ll be looking to put the ball in their hands,” added Olver.
“It’s been a tough preseason already, especially given the heat we’ve had the last week or so, and we’ve done a lot of running and work in the gym. We’ve been out on bikes and things too and people are really starting to see the benefits.
“As a club we felt we had a disappointing season last year. By a lot of teams’ standards it wouldn’t be, as we finished fifth in the league, but we weren’t happy with that so it would be great to get off to a flying start with the 7s.
“I’m always learning, trying to pick up pointers and different aspects of the other No.10’s games. I just want to play as much first-team rugby as possible this season and the Singha 7s is a great chance to put my hand up from the start.”
The Singha Premiership Rugby 7s continues on Friday at Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton and Saturday at Kingston Park, Newcastle with the Series Finals at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry on Sunday 7 August. For tickets and details visit premiershiprugby.com/singha7s/tickets