Preview: Half-ton for Horne
Thu, 09 May 2013 18:41
He might be more suited to the 15-a-side game
New Zealand have already claimed the 2012/13 IRB Sevens World Series, so the real battle at Twickenham this weekend is between the eight teams competing for the three remaining core places.
For those eight nations the prize on offer is arguably even greater that winning the Cup competition - a ticket to compete at every round of the 2013/14 Sevens World Series.
Scotland will line up in London along with Portugal and Spain needing to win back core team status next season after finishing outside the top 12 in the Series standings after last weekend's eighth and penultimate round in Glasgow.
The Scots face pool matches in London against Hong Kong, Zimbabwe and Georgia, while Portugal and Spain line up in Pool B with Tonga and RWC Sevens hosts, Russia.
However, there is another very important feature of the Twickenham tournament that can't be overlooked.
South Africa captain Frankie Horne will run out against Australia on Day One, Saturday (May 11), in what will be his 50th consecutive World Series tournament.
It is a phenomenal achievement to have maintained form and fitness for such a long time and, fittingly, a new world record crowd for Sevens is set to be at Twickenham on Saturday to mark the occasion.
For the humble giant himself, however, who has lifted three of the last four Cup titles this Series, the landmark is not as important as focusing on the final round of the Series.
"You don't focus on stuff like that, you focus on team goals," Horne said.
"It is quite nice to reach that mark, but there are players who have made it [50 Series tournaments] but won more tournaments on making that mark so there is always more to aspire to, but it is nice," he added.
"Our whole mission [for the last to round] was to start well, and we just want to finish on a high. Wherever we end up in the log we want to end on a high. We have some new guys and we want them to have some special memories and take something to build on.
"The guys that come through are quality, so they have the strength in them to do it. We are building, working towards the World Cup and giving the youngsters something to be proud of."
Horne made his first appearance at the 2007 Dubai Sevens, and the modesty he is showing in becoming the first player to play in 50 consecutive tournaments is no surprise to his head coach.
"Frankie is diligent and disciplined. This is a special team and it is like his second family," said Paul Treu.
"He has been instrumental as captain and I have the utmost respect for him. He is the one player I would take into battle. He has played with only one kidney which is even more remarkable and he just keeps on going.
"If we can take him to the Olympics that would be first prize for me. But this is a special achievement and I am not sure anyone will do it again."
When Treu first saw Horne play, however, he told him that he would be more suited to the fifteen-a-side game than Sevens, and if he wanted to pursue a career he would have to adapt his game. So he did.
"Frankie was raw, and not at the level he is now. He kept running crash balls so I said he might be more suited to fifteens, but that it was up to him and he would have to adapt and learn quickly [the game of Sevens].
"He has constantly progressed, even up until now. He has matured and he is motivated, and now since becoming captain after Kyle [Brown] got injured in Dubai he speaks to the players calmly and collectively.
"There is a lot of respect between the two of us too, and he makes my life easier. He won't let injuries take him out either - as a coach what more could you want from a player?"
The man Horne replaced as captain due to injury at the 2012 Dubai Sevens, Kyle Brown, was also full of praise for his teammate.
"From a players point of view, what he will achieve this weekend is unheard of. Sometimes, I feel that many people won't quite understand what it means, and what it takes, to reach 50 tournaments - let alone 50 tournaments back to back," said Brown.
"So many of us have dealt with really devastating injuries that have kept us out for ages, but he keeps trooping on. He's had to deal with so many niggling setbacks of his own and he never moans about a thing.
"It's inspiring to have a soldier like him in the team, not just for the youngsters, but also for some of the senior guys. When times get tough and the bodies are aching he has written the handbook on how to deal with it - head down, team first and march on. He has very little sense of self-preservation at tournament time and will leave it all out there for the jersey and the men around him.
"It has been an honour and a pleasure to play along side him for the last five years and it pains me not to be there this weekend. We have become great friends and I wish him all the best for this weekend. I really look forward to being back on the park, shoulder to shoulder, with a legend of the game."
After the penultimate round of the Series, New Zealand have 151 points, an unassailable lead from second-placed South Africa (122). Fiji lie third (108) ahead of Samoa (99) and Kenya (84).
The newly confirmed Series champions will play Wales, Canada and Kenya in pool play, while hosts England face three tough matches against Fiji, Samoa and Argentina. Meanwhile, Glasgow champions South Africa line up against USA, Australia and France.
Pool A: South Africa, United States, Australia, France
Pool B: New Zealand, Wales, Canada, Kenya
Pool C: England, Argentina, Fiji, Samoa
Day One fixtures:
(Kick-off is local time - GMT plus one hour)
United States v France, 09.30
South Africa v Australia, 09.52
Wales v Kenya, 10.14
New Zealand v Canada, 10.36
Argentina v Samoa, 10.58
England v Fiji, 11.20
South Africa v France, 13.40
United States v Australia, 14.02
New Zealand v Kenya, 14.24
Wales v Canada, 14.46
England v Samoa, 15.18
Argentina v Fiji, 15.40
South Africa v United States, 16.02
Australia v France, 16.24
Canada v Kenya, 17.03
New Zealand v Wales, 17.25
Fiji v Samoa, 17.47
England v Argentina, 18.09
With thanks to the IRB
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