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Sevens Grass Roots Flourishing For England

30/03/2017 16:03
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Last August, Simon Amor reached the summit of rugby sevens by guiding his Great Britain players to the sport's inaugural Olympic Games final in Rio de Janeiro.

The England head coach, and glittering former captain, launched his own playing career some two decades ago at the Rosslyn Park National Schools Sevens.

And it was fitting that earlier this month the 37-year-old swapped the Deodoro Stadium for a field in south-west London to spend three days poring over the thousands of schoolchildren hoping to emulate their Olympic heroes in the latest edition of the biggest rugby tournament in the world.

Amor, whose side are currently second in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series with six of the 10 rounds gone, was enthused by what he witnessed, and believes the grass roots of rugby have been liberally fertilised by his beloved sport's star turn in Rio.

"The growth of sevens has been enormous in recent years, and there is no doubt Olympic exposure has helped," he said from the HSBC-sponsored Rosslyn Park National Schools Sevens, which saw an unprecedented 9,000 boys and girls, aged between 13 and 18, take the field across the five days.

"On the circuit, the sport is growing so quickly, and it's impossible not be excited in the atmospheric, sold-out venues. It's wonderful to see the buzz, inside the grounds and on social media, too.

"And it's brilliant to see youngsters looking to emulate the international stars, which was obvious at Rosslyn Park. I did a bit of scouting to find the next big things, and there was so much talent.

"The Olympics has had a definite impact in terms of the quality of rugby sevens players. It has filtered down, and changed the style from old-school sevens. There was some excellent team rugby on view; players were taking opponents on, there were offloads, good passes, good tackles. It really has improved, and it's so exciting."

A World Rugby survey suggested that seven's eye-catching performance at the Olympics generated almost 17 million more fans around the globe. Amor's employers, the Rugby Football Union, have been quick to capitalise on that success and sought to nourish the grass roots.

On the back of Rio the RFU announced a partnership with 15 universities across the land, agreed to provide increased funding to support player, coach and facility development; four (Durham, Northumbria, Loughborough, and Bath) will offer specialist sevens programmes. Talented players now have a pathway to international stardom, and a number of players - including Harry Glover (Newcastle University), Will Edwards, and Charlie Kingham (both Loughborough University) - have featured for the England Sevens Academy this year while still studying. Edwards even competed in the most recent Sevens Series leg in Vancouver, which Amor's side won.

Further, a much-extended 24Sevens competition, open for all community clubs and new and existing sevens teams, is expected to significantly boost participation figures in England.

With the backing of the RFU and aided by HSBC's continued investment in grass roots initiates across the globe - including the Rosslyn Park tournament - as well as title sponsorship of the Sevens Series, the short- and long-term future for England looks incredibly promising.

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