He believes this series will be even better than the last.
WORLD Cup winning coach Sir Clive Woodward expects this year’s J.P. Morgan Asset Management Premiership Rugby 7s Series to be the most competitive yet with it being the first to fall in the new Olympic cycle.
The J.P. Morgan Premiership Rugby 7s is set to burst into life for a fourth edition next week and has a lot to live up to if last season’s final is anything to go by as London Irish pipped Gloucester Rugby to the title 31-28 despite trailing 28-5 at half-time.
However Woodward, who led England to the 2003 Rugby World Cup, believes this is almost a certainty to be bettered this year with this year’s edition being the first in the Olympic cycle for the 2016 Rio Games.
Woodward played a behind the scenes role at London 2012 as the nation became gripped by Great Britain’s success.
And with all eyes now on Brazil – and 7s’ inclusion – Woodward believes the lure to follow in Team GB’s impressive footsteps in the capital will mean the players will go all out for glory at this year’s J.P. Morgan Premiership Rugby 7s.
“The J.P. Morgan 7s tournament is in its fourth year and once sevens got the Olympic seal of approval, I think 7s moved to a whole new level and I think the whole of rugby is pleased that 7s is really being taken seriously,” Woodward said.
“The teams put their best players forward and help make this competition special. It is still in its infancy but it’s here to stay and I think rugby will look back in 10-15-20 years time and say ‘wow, this was a big turning point in terms of the game’.
“I do really believe though that the Olympic has added a real energy to this because ask any athlete in any sport including golf and rugby they all want to play in the Olympic games and go out to Rio.
“I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in three Olympics from a British point a view and I’d think any player would want to represent Great Britain in the 7’s.
“The Olympics is the biggest sporting event in the world, even bigger than World Cups or football tournaments, so everyone will want to be there so to go there as a 7s player for the first time in Rio will be a real good thing.
“It will be a massive even for them, I’d love to have done it as a player, so I expect everyone to go all out in this year’s J.P. Morgan 7s to try and put their hand up for it.”
While the British & Irish Lions’ success Down Under might have demonstrated just how important brute force is in the XV game, 7s rewards players with speed and nimble feet.
And Woodward is adamant this year’s J.P. Morgan Premiership Rugby 7s Series could be the ideal platform for youngsters to prove their worth.
“The XV game is really physical now and you’ll get players say that they’re not physical enough to play but 7s is such a fast game so there will be some more suited to playing 7s than 15s which is important because it is a different game,” he added.
“But it will allow people to come into the full-size game and really shine. The J.P. Morgan 7s tournament is a good event which will allow people to shine in the tournament and then go onto XVs.
“It’s good for young players as there isn’t quite that physicality to it. You can be skilful at 17 or 18 but you’ve got to grow physically and if you’re not quite there you get brushed aside physically and forgotten about.
“But 7s gives you that extra year or two years to develop. That’s the great thing about 7s, you can’t hide, it is such an active game.”
The J.P Morgan Premiership Rugby 7s kicks off on 1st August at Kingsholm with rounds at Franklin’s Gardens and Allianz Park and the Final at The Recreation Ground. For tickets and more information visit: www.jpmorgan7s.com or follow @jpmorganrugby7s
Photo courtesy of Doha Stadium Plus, with thanks.