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Tom Mitchell: Welcome behind the scenes of England Sevens

 Tom MitchellFor a lucky few of us an endless summer is about to start. The HSBC World Sevens Series commences in three weeks on the Australian Gold Coast and for the next nine months two hundred players will travel to nine different destinations across five different continents. But the intense, fast paced, high-pressure competition remains the same.

Finishing in sixth position last year was a disappointment for everybody involved with England 7s. Whilst a silver medal in the World Cup should perhaps have provided some solace, it felt like we had, once again, fallen short of the mark.

Personally, after sitting out five months of the season with a broken leg, it seemed there was little to salvage from my first year of professional rugby.

Out of the adversity of last year, however, was born a renewed vigour and determination. Pre-season training was a time to reset and move forward.

It was also a time for change as Ben Ryan stepped down after seven years of commendable service to England rugby. He gave me the opportunity to realise my dream of playing for England 7s and I will always be grateful to him for his tutorship.

The rumour mill was in overdrive as the headmen at the RFU set about finding a replacement. This at least gave us something to talk about between floggings in the gym or on the pitch. Somebody will have made a few quid from the team sweepstake once Simon Amor was named as the new head coach.

Simon brings with him a wealth of sevens experience and I am looking forward to learning under his guidance.

Last weekend saw us travel to Romania for the final leg of the FIRA European series that runs between World Series seasons. The crowds, the excitement and indeed the quality of the competition did not match the IRB series but the tournaments provide valuable game time and an opportunity to test ourselves against Europe’s best sides. After winning the first leg in Lyon in June, we were anxious to do the double and claim the title.

The opportunity to get out on the field was very welcome. Two months of pre-season really fuels the hunger for the real thing. What you try to ignore is the harsh reality that this is the probably the freshest you will feel all season. The accumulation of bumps, bruises and numerous niggles is about to start.

Being in Bucharest also brought home the realities of 7s tournaments. There is always the element of the unknown, the various uncontrollable features that must not become a distraction. Whether your Romanian hotel specialises in late night discos or not(!) you have no choice but to get up and be ready to perform.

We return from our first outing of the season as European champions, retaining the title from last year. Seven wins in as many games, including against the Welsh in our pool and the French in the final, is undoubtedly a positive statistic but with selection for Gold Coast on the horizon nobody will be resting on their laurels.

And so it begins, many trips that make up the tremendous journey that is the HSBC World Sevens Series.

For the next nine months, Tom Mitchell will give you exclusive access behind the scenes of the England Sevens team as they travel the world.

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