England Sevens name expanded full-time squad for 2012-13
The full-time player roster increases from 12 to 16 with new contracts awarded to backs Dan Bibby (UWIC), James Lightfoot-Brown (Exeter Chiefs), Tom Mitchell (Oxford University) (pictured), Marcus Watson (Saracens), Jeff Williams (RC Chateaurenard), and forwards Mike Ellery (Moseley) and Jack Preece (Birmingham Solihull).
Assistant coach Russell Earnshaw now has a full-time post after previously combining his role with that of Director of Rugby at Birmingham Solihull.
Some of the newcomers will appear in European competitions this summer ahead of a busy 2012-13 season which will see the HSBC Sevens World Series followed by the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow next June.
Mitchell, 22, Bibby, 21, Watson, 20, and centre Williams, 23, all made their England Sevens debuts this season. Mitchell appeared in six tournaments, Watson in five, Bibby in two and Williams in one, scoring a debut try against Australia at last weekend’s Marriott London Sevens.
Lightfoot-Brown, 19 in June, is a former England Under 18 scrum half who joins after spells in the Exeter and London Irish academy ranks. Ellery, 22, is an athletic back row forward in outstanding form in the Championship this season while openside breakdown specialist Preece, 22, captained Bees in National One this season.
Departing are former captain Greg Barden, who has retired, hooker Simon Hunt and wing Nick Royle.
England can also add further players to the squad either on ‘core’ contracts shared with professional clubs or those in higher education like former England Under 20 internationals Sam Edgerley and Mark Odejobi.
Isoa Damudamu is unlikely feature in 2012-13, though. The soldier dislocated his left knee and damaged ligaments playing for the Army against the Navy last month and rehabilitation following surgery is expected to take at least a year.
England finished third in this season’s HSBC Sevens World Series behind New Zealand and Fiji with Mat Turner and Dan Norton first and second in the leading try-scorer table with 38 and 37 respectively.
“Being able to keep the bulk of this season’s squad together and add new faces is good news for us in terms of maintaining momentum, increasing competition and driving up standards,” said Ryan.
“We believe we can maximise their potential and turn them into world class sevens players. Some of the new full-time players have already gained experience in the HSBC Sevens World Series; others will make their debuts in Europe this summer and they’re all part of the next chapter for England Sevens.”
England Sevens contracted players: Dan Bibby, John Brake, Chris Brightwell, Chris Cracknell, Mike Ellery, Christian Lewis-Pratt, James Lightfoot-Brown, Tom Mitchell, Dan Norton, Tom Powell, Jack Preece, James Rodwell, Mathew Turner, Rob Vickerman, Marcus Watson, Jeff Williams.