The final group stage of the Singha Premiership Rugby 7s Series concludes at Kingston Park this Saturday with hosts Newcastle Falcons looking to reach their sixth Series Final against Leicester Tigers, Sale Sharks and Worcester Warriors.
Newcastle Falcons may have history in the Singha 7s, but their squad for this year’s tournament suggests they are keen to write a new chapter. Falcons have named a strong side, including 2011 Premiership Rugby 7s winners Tom Catterick and Joel Hodgson.
Squad captain Dan Temm made his first-team debut against Saracens last season, while Tom Ffitch, an England 7s player, adds class and experience.
"That record brings with it an added pressure and expectation, but I am confident this group has the quality and attitude to shine on what is always a really enjoyable day,” said first-team skills coach Mark Laycock.
“With it being held at Kingston Park Stadium there will be no shortage of local support, and with rugby 7s about to make its debut in the Olympic Games there is no better time for people to come down in person and see what all the fuss is about."
Where Newcastle have gone for experience and proven quality, Leicester Tigers enter the Singha 7s with an exciting young squad hoping to shine in front of the coaching staff.
All eyes will be on scrum-half Ben White, who became the youngest Aviva Premiership Rugby player in Tigers’ history against Harlequins last season, and he will captain the side.
No.8 Fred Tuilagi, son of Tigers’ great Freddie, may also catch the eye as he becomes the seventh member of his family to play for Leicester, while Jordan Olowofela will hope to improve on his two tries in last year’s tournament.
"We have a young squad and the Singha Premiership Rugby 7s will be a good test and a good experience for them,” said coach Brett Deacon.
"It is an opportunity for us to see how well they handle playing in front of a big crowd at an Aviva Premiership ground, and for them to express themselves on a big stage and to show what they can do ahead of the season."
Sale Sharks’ appearance in last year’s Plate Final suggests there is plenty more to come from the club at the Singha 7s.
They will be led by last year’s standout player James Mitchell – who scored 34 points – while the likes of George Nott, Tom Morton and Matt Postlethwaite also return.
New academy signings, and identical twin brothers, Ben and Tom Curry will be the subject of much intrigue, while there will an added spice in Sale’s game with Leicester as winger Paolo Odogwu faces his former club for the first time since leaving Welford Road last month.
"This is a hugely exciting bunch of young Sharks’ players, who are looking forward to the challenge on Saturday. We want to build on last year's progress of reaching the Plate Final,” said coach Pete Anglesea.
After his success in the World Under-20 Championship with England this summer, Huw Taylor will be the Worcester Warriors’ star attraction when they kick off their Singha 7s campaign against Leicester Tigers.
Taylor, who scored one try in last year’s Singha 7s, will captain a young looking side which includes first-team fly-half Tiff Eden – who missed the 2015 edition.
Josh Adams is among a number of hot academy prospects, which also includes the likes of Sam Ripper-Smith, Tom Dodd and Ben Fowles.
"We're excited about travelling up to Newcastle and to play some free-flowing rugby,” said academy manager Chim Gale.
"The competition will be an opportunity for some of the lads to showcase their talents at a great venue and also a special moment for some of them to pull on the Warriors’ jersey for the first time.”
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