In a major coup for Bury St Edmunds RUFC, the Free Press can reveal England Sevens have chosen the Green King IPA 7s in May as part of their Olympic build-up programme.
Simon Amor is set to bring a full-strength squad to compete in the international tournament hosted by National League Two South outfit Bury at the Greene King IPA Haberden on Sunday, May 8.
Chairman Mike Robinson, who will still be working with the tournament’s hard-working committee to secure a celebrity off-the-field rugby guest at the event — having had the likes of newly announced England XV captain Dylan Hartley as well as Billy Vunipola, Courtney Lawes, David Strettle and Chris Ashton in recent years — said it will present a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many Suffolk-based rugby fans.
“It is a real coup for us that we are really excited about and it is a real endorsement of the quality of the tournament,” he said.
“They are using it as part of their build up to get ready for the Olympics, which sevens has been included in for the first time.”
Aviva Premiership powerhouses Northampton Saints, Saracens and Leicester Tigers all took part in last year’s event, which attracted several thousand people to the Haberden on its traditional May Bank Holiday weekend spot.
And Robinson hopes the draw of the England Olympic hopefuls, who will be looking to fine tune their game ahead of the concluding round of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series at Twickenham on May 16-17 will pull in the biggest crowd the Southgate Green ground has ever seen.
He explained Bury’s performance director, Terry Sands — a former manager of the England Sevens — had sorted out the international team’s appearance with long-standing friend Amor, who was keen to get in as many high quality sevens tournaments as possible in the build-up to their tournament in Brazil in August.
“It is also a great opportunity for local people to see what the best players in the world can do on their doorstep, and they may never get that again,” he said.
In a week where pictures of people posing with Hartley at Bury were being re-posted on Facebook, Robinson gave his endorsement to the controversial character’s selection as England captain, saying: “He has been the captain of Norhampton Saints for six years in their most successful ever period and that seems to have been missed by many of the commentators. He has a proven track record as a captain in that dressing room, and who else has?”
Meanwhile, Bury St Edmunds (12th) will host Taunton Titans (4th) at the Haberden tomorrow (3pm) looking to end a run of three straight defeats.
The Wolfpack squandered another lead, this time at Canterbury, to lose 34-33, and director of rugby Gavin Hogg says they need to heed the lessons from that painful defeat, fast.
“We know we’re on a poor run right now, but we’re trying to take the positives from those games. Even so, we cannot ignore the fact that we’re getting closer to the relegation zone and we don’t want to get dragged in,” he said.
“We’ve had a tough run of fixtures and it was always going to be difficult to pick up wins. Last week was the biggest disappointment because we held a decent lead and still ended up losing.
“But, we’ve been working a lot on ball retention in training and making sure that we stay organised defensively. At the same time, we don’t want to spend the rest of the season chasing our tails trying to fix our wrongs.
“There have been problems with concentration and application of late. We have a tendency to switch off and we concede soft scores because of that. This season has been a massive learning curve.”
Looking ahead to tomorrow’s game, which the Free Press will be providing live updates from (via the ‘live sport’ section on this website), Hogg said they will not be making the same mistake they made in having to play catch-up in the reverse fixture, a 26-22 defeat back in October.
“We know that they are a good side,” he said. “When they beat us 26-22 in October, we probably showed them a bit too much respect early on. We did finish the game well, though, and on another day we might have come away from it with a victory.
“We’ve watched the videos and it’s clear that they are a good side with the ball and are solid at the set piece. But, we believe that there are few weaknesses in their play that we can expose with our style, as long as we are on top of our game.”