Rodwell chasing a Dubai 'hat-trick'
Rodwell chasing a Dubai 'hat-trick'SHARE
James Rodwell has banked two Dubai Sevens titles and is one of three England players aiming to complete an unprecedented treble in the desert this weekend.
Forwards Rodwell and Tom Powell, and wing Dan Norton are the trio who lifted titles in 2010 and 2011, beating Samoa and France in back-to-back finals.
This season's IRB Sevens World Series started with England missing out on the quarterfinals on the Australian Gold Coast in October.
But Rodwell – Player of the Tournament in Dubai in 2010 – expects his side to tighten up in defence and unleash some new and old faces to good effect in Friday's Pool C matches against South Africa, Samoa and Portugal.
James Lightfoot-Brown and Ollie Marchon are set to make their debuts while Dan Bibby has two tournaments under his belt from last season. England have also called up 2009 World Player of the Year Ollie Phillips following his spells in the 15-a-side game with Stade Francais and Gloucester.
"We spent a good week analysing the Gold Coast, seeing what went wrong, why we didn't perform, and there's a big focus on our defence for this tournament," said Rodwell.
"We put that down as the number one thing for us to improve on and we've spent a lot of work in training on that.
"We know our attack is good; we just need the ball to show other teams what we can do and that comes from good defence to get it back."
England lost experienced forward Chris Cracknell (knee) and last season's leading try-scorer Mat Turner (ankle) to injury in Queensland with playmaker Christian Lewis-Pratt (ankle) hurt in the Dubai build-up.
But England can call on more talent from within their 19-strong full-time Sevens squad as well as drafting in Marchon from National League One side Old Albanians.
"We've got a really exciting squad for this weekend with some new faces and some old ones as well," added Rodwell.
"My new roommate James Lightfoot-Brown has got some incredible feet on him. He's only 19 years-old but he's definitely one to watch this weekend.
"Ollie Marchon the other new cap is a really direct player, he's going to add a lot of impetus to the forwards; he runs really hard.
"We've also got Ollie Phillips – the Old Master – coming back giving a good bit of experience to the boys, and Dan Bibby's full of energy. He's got great feet and awareness and he can spot a gap that other people can't see."