Hong Kong Sevens

'Time to tackle time wasters'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 March, 2011, 12:00am

England coach Ben Ryan has raised concerns over the amount of time the ball is out of play as sevens looks ahead to an exciting new era leading up to Rio in 2016.

More time, more players and more tournaments are on Ryan's wish list as he looks forward to the new cycle in the IRB Sevens World Series starting next season.

'The game is structurally very solid so you just have to look at one or two small things that need to be changed. One area is the amount of time the ball is out of play. Right now it is over half the game and we need to be careful this doesn't increase,' Ryan said.

Since taking over the mantle as coach of the national sevens squad in 2007, the affable Englishman is still searching for his first Cup title at Hong Kong Stadium. It might come on Sunday. The innovative Ryan said he would like to see the game adopt some radical changes on the field, and also called for more tournaments on the circuit.

'I think we should seriously look at allowing all five substitutes on to the field,' said Ryan when asked what he would change. Only three are allowed.

Ryan's main suggestion, however, revolves around more ball time. He said teams indulged in time-wasting when taking conversions, which he felt impacted hugely on games.

'I would probably have a timed clock on the big screen for conversions and even a time-off once you have kicked the conversion before you jog back to the halfway mark for the re-start. This will ensure we get more ball time,' Ryan said.

'There is also room for additional tournaments and hopefully that will come into place. Thought should also go into the pairings of these tournaments from a player welfare point of view so it cuts down some of the travel.

'Having been involved in the series for five years, it is essential we get the travel right. The IRB are definitely going in the right direction and I am sure we will see a very good future for the series.' Ryan has managed to convince the RFU to centrally contract players for sevens. The squad have eight players who are full-time sevens players, including skipper Ben Gollings, and that seems to be working as England share top spot in the series standings with New Zealand, both on 80 points.

While the Kiwis will once again pose the biggest threat to England's plans to win a fifth Hong Kong Sevens title - and the first since 2006 - Ryan believes none of the other big guns can be discounted.

'New Zealand pose the biggest threat because they are the most consistent rival we have. They very rarely lose two games on the trot,' Ryan said. 'I think the last time was when we beat them and South Africa knocked them over in Adelaide two years ago.

'They are strong but South Africa are the biggest budgeted team in the championship. They have got more full-time players and even if they don't win the series, they will have an impact because they will knock over some of the top teams - the same with Samoa and Fiji.'

England began the season in fine style. Playing in a new kit dubbed tequila sunrise - one which is bound to make traditionalists choke on their gin and tonics - Gollings and his men came back from an opening day loss to Portugal to win the Dubai Sevens.

A key player in that victory march was flyer Ollie Lindsay-Hague, who scored a brace of tries in the semi-final win over New Zealand, and then repeated it in the Cup final against Samoa. Lindsay-Hague has been out with injury since but is back in the side this weekend.

In his absence, England reached two finals in George and Wellington, before losing in the semi-final to eventual winners South Africa at the last leg in Las Vegas. But Ryan is happy as England target a first IRB Sevens World Series title.

'We are certainly in with a shout at the halfway stage, but these next two tournaments and Hong Kong, in particular, are very important,' Ryan said.