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Tom Mitchell: Gold Coast behind us, Dubai next

 Tom MitchellWe are back in the gym and working hard. Sessions on the running track and training park are back to their pre-season intensity. Once again our focus is four weeks in the future and the Dubai Sevens. The Gold Coast has been put behind us.

Twelve days ago we were striding away with a victory in the third place play-off against a fatigued and lack-lustre South African side. This provided some consolation after the disappointment of losing out to New Zealand in the semi-final, a game in which we failed to take our chances to get the upper hand.

Since being back in England many people have congratulated us on our third place finish. ‘That’s a pretty good start to the season isn’t it?’ Immediately after the tournament I shared this sentiment. But what can’t be ignored is the fact that in losing to New Zealand, who went on to win the Gold Coast title, we are already playing catch up. Perhaps a valid thought when you consider that they have been World Series champions in 11 out of the last 14 seasons.

Nevertheless, what we achieved in Australia is not just seen in the 17 points visible on the World Series table. We are in a period of transition and changes take time to come to fruition. The first tournament saw us make steps forward in our development. To be tested in the high-pressure environment, to open yourself up for scrutiny and to make mistakes are the only ways to kick-start the progression.

But before our focus came back to improving and back to rugby we had a few days off post tournament. It provided a chance for us to spend time with friends and family and recuperate after a physically demanding period. After a 30-hour journey, body bruised and battered, the comfort of your own bed cannot be underestimated.

It was back to a normal life for a few days, not governed by meal times and team schedules. What usually ensues is the emotional comedown off the IRB series. Our trips always end with a highly charged and very intense two days during the tournament and as the plane lands back in the UK we come crashing back down to earth.

After spending two weeks solid living and breathing the same lives, it can feel strange and isolated as we go our separate ways for a few days. The guys were turning up last Monday morning for training and greeting one another like they had been apart for months! A sign of the camaraderie of our job that we probably take for granted.

Everyone has dived headlong back into training this week. Already there are murmurings of excitement at the thought of playing again in little over a month.

One of the hidden challenges of the IRB season is upon us now; there is a finite length of time between tournaments to get better and prepare. For us, at the stage we are at in England Sevens and our emphasis on development, this becomes an even greater challenge.

You can read Tom Mitchell’s first two columns here.

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