LONDON — After a year of speculation over whether seasoned internationals from the 15-a-side code would make the transition across to Sevens in time for the Olympics, just one made the Team GB cut: Scotland’s Mark Bennett.
It seems to keep the status quo after South Africa included Juan de Jongh, Fiji brought in Leone Nakarawa, the U.S. plucked Chris Wyles out at the last minute and New Zealand had their experienced cross-code superstar Sonny Bill Williams.
The message from the Team GB men’s head coach is he is envious of no one, but there is still a sense of ‘what if?’ about the 12-man selection for Rio.
Tom Mitchell will captain Team GB’s men’s Sevens side at the Rio Olympics with Scotland’s Mark Bennett the only 15s international to make the cut.
What if the Rugby Football Union had struck a deal with the clubs allowing Amor to get access to players like Christian Wade during the Sevens World Series?
What if Wade and other interested parties, Jack Clifford included, had been given time to run out on the Sevens scene and prove their worth ahead of the Olympics?
What if George North or Danny Cipriani had been given time to state their claim? What if … what if?
Such questions will probably be loudly if Team GB falls short in Rio de Janeiro, and the men’s side is the most competitive of tournaments with any one of six teams capable of lifting gold.
But as last season’s Sevens Series showed with Scotland’s incredible triumph at Twickenham, explosions of unpredictability and laughter in the face of form are rife in Sevens.
The closest Team GB boast to a box office name is Bennett, but the Scotland international has been named in the 12-man party alongside Ollie Lindsay-Hague and Marcus Watson, and those two have played on numerous legs of the global Sevens series despite being contracted to Aviva Premiership clubs.
Amor has largely gone for the tried and tested instead of rolling the dice. It is an England-dominated selection, too, with eight making the cut alongside two from Scotland and a Welsh duo.
Fiji are the team to beat and they pack the most potent cocktail of power, pace, prowess and precision; Team GB perhaps lack in physicality and may struggle in the aerial battle.
James Rodwell, Mark Robertson and Sam Cross’ inclusions are key in the latter area but if they get injured then they will lack replacements in the camp. Similarly, they will struggle in the attritional areas and will look to Phil Burgess for over-the-ball pinching to counter physicality.
Of those omitted, Luke Treharne will feel the most hard done by. Then there’s Cory Allen, the Wales centre, who attempted to force his way into contention but left his charge too late, and Joe Simpson, who was ruled out through injury.
There is an element of uneasiness about Team GB’s prospects — the poor form of England and Wales in last season’s Sevens Series saw them fall off the crowded pedestal of favourites — but in skipper Tom Mitchell, there is hope.
He is fiercely talented and one of the best playmakers gracing the circuit. His ability to spot space will give Team GB a point of difference. His experience is also invaluable and that is one area the team will not be found wanting in.
The lack of wildcards means they are all well drilled in the short-form of the game and have it running through their DNA.
But while they are a group who know Sevens like the back of their respective hands, they will only have had a limited number of tournaments together. Team GB have only played in four competitions as a unit, and then they were split across two teams.
Compare that to their competitors, who have had an entire Series as a group and Team GB seem to be at a disadvantage.
Amor’s 12-man squad is the just about the best he could have assembled given his situation. They won’t go to Rio as favourites but the pressure of an Olympic Games can do strange things to medal-chasers.
While England, Wales and Scotland have just three tournament victories between them out of the past 28 legs of the World Series, together they may offer a different, more potent cocktail and there is no better stage to prove that.
It all kicks off on Aug. 9 against Kenya for Team GB. Win gold and they will rightly laugh in the face of the naysayers but fall short and that nasty itch of the ‘what if’ will be hard to ignore.
Source Article from http://www.espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/id/17104537/team-gb-sevens-men-great-unknown-ahead-rio-olympics
Will Team GB come to regret Sevens selection?
ESPN.com – RUGBY