The third leg of the Singha Premiership Rugby 7s Series at Franklin’s Gardens this Friday is packed full of hot prospects, 7s veterans and proven internationals as Northampton gets ready to host a thrilling night of world class rugby.
Hosts Northampton Saints have stuck to tradition and named a young, yet familiar, squad as they look to give the Franklin’s Gardens crowd plenty to shout about on Friday night.
Back-row Sion Bennett, who was a key part of the Wanderers squad which reached the Aviva A League Final earlier this year, will captain the side while Tom Emery, who scored two tries in last year’s tournament, returns.
Other familiar names include Tom Collins, Howard Packman and Lewis Ludlam – who has promised excitement and plenty of tries for the home crowd.
“We are all close as a group but it’s important in 7s that you are all on the same page and all doing the same thing, so we’ll be sure to get a few hard days’ work in this week and hopefully we will be flying in time for Friday,” said Ludlam.
“There are sure to be some silky feet from some of our guys, and a bit of showboating as well, so there are bound to be lots of tries to make it a great event.”
Saracens lifted the trophy in the competition’s first year back in 2010 when they beat Newcastle Falcons, and they were runners-up the following year.
They have set a young squad the task of repeating that achievement this year to continue the club’s success – which has seen them become Aviva Premiership Rugby and European Rugby Champions Cup Champions in the last three months.
Tom Whiteley will captain the side while 36-year-old scrum-half Kevin Barrett will provide the squad with experience.
Barrett retired from the game in 2013 but continued to play for Ampthill in National One. The former England 7s captain starred at the Singha 7s last year and is expected to play a big role again.
The likes of Ben Earl, Jack Nay and Alex Gliksten will look to show off their skills in front of the watching Saracens' coaching team, as the academy continues to produce top young players.
After back-to-back titles in the Singha 7s, Gloucester Rugby lost their crown a year ago but are now keen to get it back – highlighted by their selection of six first-team squad players this year.
Scrum-half Callum Braley will lead the side after captaining them to success two years ago, while the likes of Dan Thomas, Lewis Ludlow and David Halaifonua provide plenty of big-game experience.
The academy prospects are also out to show what they can do, and coach Olly Morgan will be keen to cast his eye over exciting talents such as Joe Mullis, Mason Tonks and Harry Randall.
"We've got a tough draw with back to back matches and, having watched the tournaments in years gone by and last weekend, that can cause teams to struggle,” said Morgan.
"It's a great spectacle, a great tournament and competition. We're excited about it.”
England 7s star Cameron Cowell is set to make a guest appearance for Harlequins this weekend, as the Londoners add style and quality to their youthful side in Group C.
Cowell and fellow England player Oskar Hirskyj-Douglas are the star names in the Quins' squad, who start their Singha 7s tournament against Saints in the opener.
Established academy players Robbie Nairn, Sam Aspland-Robinson and Henry Cheeseman are also involved as they try to impress new director of rugby John Kingston.
All eyes will be on England U20 international Aspland-Robinson, who scored three tries as Martin Haag’s side became World Champions in Manchester last month.
First year intakes Gabriel Ibitoye, Niall Saunders, Dino Lamb-Cona, Jonas Mikalcius and James Lang are also included, as Harlequins continue to blood their youngsters.
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/singha7stickets
Statistics provided by Stuart Farmer Media Services