What an incredible and exhausting couple of weeks it has been! Much of the Sevens season had been building up to the final leg of the IRB Women’s Challenge Cup series in London last weekend and it was a fantastic experience to be able to play at the ‘home of England Rugby’. The preparation for the tournament went really well and the players new to the squad – Emily Scarratt, Natasha Hunt and Kat Merchant – settled in quickly.
One of the great things about 7s is that you spend a lot of the down time between games in close proximity with the players from all of the other nations and so it was nice to catch up with a lot of those players. It’s kind of odd that one minute you are catching up with old friends off the pitch and the next minute you are doing everything that you possibly can to beat them on the pitch.
Despite a really tough first day we managed to get through to the semi and final and it was the most wonderful experience to play – and win – in front of a partisan and very excited home crowd.
We came out of camp on Monday after London and – I’m not going to lie – it was pretty tough going to work the next day to teach dozens of excitable teenagers in Hackney – especially knowing that most of the other nations were going straight off to Amsterdam to prepare.
With such a short turnaround time between tournaments it is important to recover well and have a light, tapering, week of training. I spent some time in the gym and more time in the pool than I ordinarily would –getting the exercise in but keeping the load off my legs. It’s important that we build up a really good base fitness so we just need to keep things ticking over in weeks like that.
The working week went by in a blur and I before I knew it I was leaving work on Friday afternoon, hopping on a plane at Heathrow and arriving at our hotel in Amsterdam at midnight (spending time in airports has its perks though – we met Emile Sande in Heathrow on the way there and Tom Daley – on his 18th birthday – on the way home!).
There were 6 changes to the squad from London, with Kate Hancock, Katie Mason and Natasha Brannan coming in for their first ever England 7s starts and it was a real baptism of fire with three games in very quick succession on the first day. By our second game we really started to click as a squad but it still wasn’t quite enough to overcome a really strong and quick USA team who beat us in the last game of the day.
On the second day our results got better and better as the day went on: we started with a loss to a skilful Dutch team but then managed a draw with Canada, the reigning champions, in the second game and beat Spain, finalists in last year’s European cup, in the last game of the day. All in all it was an exhausting experience but we learned a huge amount as a squad and have lots to take away and work on in training before the European Championships at the end of June in Moscow.
Unfortunately the weekend didn’t get any less exhausting: up at 4am to get back on a plane and back into the classroom by 9.30 on Monday morning. I’m not sure how much my GCSE students learned from me in that first lesson, but if nothing else I hope I have inspired them that hard work pays off…!
By: Sonia Green, Amsterdam Sevens England Captain