England’s Rugby 7s captain Ben Gollings insists England have the players to turn up the heat at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
Gollings, 30, is the sole survivor from the side that claimed the silver medal in Melbourne four years ago, when they ran Australia, Samoa and Fiji off their feet before going down 29-21 in the final against New Zealand.
But he’s impressed with the new generation of Sevens experts, most of whom are playing on the global circuit for England on a full-time basis for the first time this season.
England launch their golden shot on Monday with Pool D games against Sri Lanka (5.58am BST), Uganda (9.34am) and Australia (1.24pm) at the Delhi University Stadium.
Bournemouth-based playmaker Gollings and Fijian-born forward Isoa Damudamu will be seen as key men again in a squad that includes seven players who claimed IRB World Sevens Series titles at Wellington and London in 2009.
And the world record Sevens points scorer highlights the pace and exuberance of three young men who will supply the firepower.
“In the team as a whole we’ve got high expectations, we’re very well prepared – as well as we ever have been at a Commonwealth Games – and we’ve got an exciting squad,” said Gollings, who has racked up 2,374 points in 10 years of IRB Sevens World Series action.
“We might not have as many big names as in the past but we’ve got some players who can do some serious damage on a Sevens field in the likes of Danny Caprice, who’s in sensational form, Isoa Damudamu, Mat Turner and Dan Norton, to name but a few.
“These are young lads who can really turn on the heat and hopefully in this big arena they’ll step right up to it. I’m looking forward to seeing them play.”
The result of the final game of Day One should determine who England will face in Tuesday’s knock-out stages with Samoa and Kenya their potential opponents.
Samoa were the overall 2010 IRB Sevens World Series winners while Kenya are a dangerous side who finished the Series in eighth place, ahead of both Wales and Scotland, reaching two semi-finals in the process.
The odds-on favourites with bookmakers will be New Zealand, who have added All Blacks Zac Guildford, Hosea Gear and Liam Messam to their squad, although Gollings is not unduly worried.
“New Zealand may be coming into this as favourites after winning the last three golds but Sevens is a very funny game that can change quickly,” he said. “It’s going to be interesting to see who adapts best.”
A medal win would be perfect for Yorkshireman Tom Powell, who celebrates his 25th birthday on Monday.
“I’m more than happy to wait a day to get the gold medal on Tuesday. It would be the most special birthday ever if that was the case,” said Rotherham-born Powell, a full time England Sevens player now after spells with Northampton Saints and Cambridge.
“We’ve great a blend of youth and experience. We’ve got the young guys and then the experienced ones who won two huge tournaments last year at London and Welllington.
“If they can transfer that knowledge over, which I think they have been doing, then we could go a long way."
England's Commonwealth Games squad: Greg Barden (Royal Navy), Kevin Barrett (Saracens), John Brake (England Sevens), Dan Caprice (England Sevens), Chris Cracknell (England Sevens), Isoa Damudamu (British Army), Ben Gollings (England Sevens, captain), Simon Hunt (Birmingham & Solihull), Dan Norton (Bristol Rugby), Tom Powell (England Sevens), James Rodwell (England Sevens), Mathew Turner (England Sevens).