The English player is arguably rugby sevens’ most famous face at the moment. We catch up with him in Australia
Time Out Dubai staff
You’re renowned as a sevens expert. How has this affected your rugby career in the 15s format? I wouldn’t say it has affected my 15s career. I believe I’m a rugby player, not a specialist in any one thing. But I guess I do enjoy sevens in particular, and the challenges it brings.
Do you agree with using rugby sevens as a way of ‘blooding’ [giving experience to] youngsters? If so, where does that leave old campaigners and sevens experts like yourself? It is the perfect environment to blood younger players and give them invaluable experience. For the older players there is always a place because you need experience there. However, now sevens has become Olympic, things will change and I believe players will become specialists.
Did you ever come to Dubai as a spectator to watch the tournament? I have never come to Dubai as a spectator. I did play in the invitational tournament one year when I was not allowed to play for England, and enjoyed watching England win from the stands. It’s an electric atmosphere and an awesome event. I love coming to Dubai to experience the Sevens and will definitely be back as a spectator when I stop playing.
Of the sevens teams, which do you dread playing the most? I don’t dread playing them, but I watch out for the likes of New Zealand and Fiji. One team that always causes us trouble is Samoa. We always have great battles against them. Who would you like to whup the most? Every team gives us a challenge, although South Africa beat us in the final in Dubai last year so I would love to face them again.
You have to be phenomenally fit and fast. What does your training schedule entail? You certainly do need to be fit – the training schedule is pretty hectic, and is usually twice a day every day leading up to events. Fitness plays a massive part in this game, so you can’t afford to be off the pace.
How about your diet? Anything you can’t eat? You don’t want to be excess weight in sevens so diet is key. I tend to eat a well-balanced diet and stay away from rubbish. On game days I hardly eat at all – it becomes a liquid diet.
You’re breaking all sorts of records, including becoming the first sevens player to score more than 2,000 points in a career. How do you do it? Being in the right place at the right time! It’s a lot of hard work and having a passion for the game.
What’s your next goal – are you going to break another record? My next goal would be to win a series and also a gold medal in the Commonwealth Games this season. Right now the gold is number one.
Which new players, other than you, should we be looking out for? We have some very good young players coming through – the likes of Dan Norton and Kevin Barrett.
And what are your hobbies besides rugby? I love playing other sports. Golf is a favourite. And I also love spending time with my boys.
Finally, how do you think rugby sevens becoming an Olympic sport will affect the game? It’s only going to grow and grow and become more professional. It’s going to be very exciting. I can’t wait!