HSBC Sevens World Series

Washout for big names in HSBC Sevens World Series

England's hat-trick hopes of Cup wins die, but small nations do well at Dubai Sevens

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 December, 2012, 4:27am

There were cheerleaders doing it Gangnam style, acrobats juggling with footballs, 50,000 fans doing their best to impersonate everyone from Elvis to the Dictator - and then there were seven men in white trying to masquerade as a rugby team.

The deejay's Delilah sounded the perfect chorus line for England's sorry fans - "Why, Why, Why" - as the crowd favourites bowed out of Cup contention for the second successive tournament in the HSBC Sevens World Series.

At the opening leg Down Under in October, England ended in the Bowl final, losing to Spain. Things got worse at their happy hunting ground in Dubai as they first crashed out of the Cup competition, having won it for the past two years, and then were beaten by Argentina 24-14 to be relegated to the Shield, the bottom-rung competition.

Coach Ben Ryan said before the event that his players were so demoralised by their performance at the Gold Coast Sevens that "they had not even gone out to collect the milk". The milkman had better take a long holiday.

Losses to South Africa and Portugal saw England's hopes of a hat-trick of Cup wins washed away in the torrential rain on the opening day.

It was one of the heaviest deluges in recent memory, according to old Dubai hands. They also could not remember a worse performance by England in recent times. "They were rubbish," said a disgruntled Craig Brown, who had flown to Dubai from Leeds to take in a bit of sun and rugby. He got neither on a wet opening day.

The increasing competitiveness of the series was underlined by sides such as South Africa, Australia and Argentina all failing to get into the Cup competition. On the other hand the resurgence of Kenya, under Mike Friday (a former England coach), and others such as Portugal and Canada, all of whom reached the last eight in the Cup, showed the smaller nations are biting back.

"We are playing catch-up but we have made tremendous strides," said Friday, who is contracted for two years to the Kenya Rugby Union.

His successor with England, Ryan, would have wished he could have said the same.

It was left to New Zealand and Samoa to carry the flag for the big powers as they entered the semi-finals after Fiji, winners of the first leg, were knocked out by France in the Cup quarter-finals.