Improve your all-round vision with sevens

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The Independent Online

As a devoted fan of sevens rugby, I was delighted to be in Dublin last week to support the application of Kinsale RFC to become part of the World Sevens Series in 2001. It's a bold attempt by this junior club on Ireland's south coast to join big sevens venues like Sydney, Hong Kong and Dubai in a global event organised by the International Rugby Board.

As a devoted fan of sevens rugby, I was delighted to be in Dublin last week to support the application of Kinsale RFC to become part of the World Sevens Series in 2001. It's a bold attempt by this junior club on Ireland's south coast to join big sevens venues like Sydney, Hong Kong and Dubai in a global event organised by the International Rugby Board.

They have made me patron of Kinsale Sevens, and I'm keen to take a close interest in their progress because I owe so much to sevens rugby myself, and know how valuable it can be in the development of the game. We in Britain and Ireland should be anxious to regain the ground we've lost in this valuable version of rugby. The Middlesex Sevens are still going, of course, as is the Melrose event in Scotland, where the game of sevens was invented, but we don't encourage it like we should.

They call the Kinsale event "The Sevens by the Sea", and they've got a lovely spot down there that reminds me of the Aberaeron Sevens in west Wales, where I had some of my first experiences of the thrills to be had from this form of rugby. The Aberaeron event used to be held in August, and drew top teams from outside Wales. I first played against Martin Offiah in Aberaeron, and most of England's West Country clubs used to send good sides there as part of their pre-season preparations. All the top Welsh sides competed, and the smaller Welsh clubs were on the giant-killing hunt. My village side of Trimsaran once beat Swansea. Thousands used to turn up, a large number of scouts from big clubs among them, and the carnival atmosphere was terrific.

Kinsale have created a similar scene in the 15 years they have been running their event, and it is now the premier sevens tournament in Ireland. In the last two years it has attracted teams from all over the world; this year it was won by a side from New Zealand.

Obviously, Kinsale will have to support their bid by upgrading their pitches and providing temporary stands, but the place alone is a big draw. They call it the gourmet capital of Ireland, and among its other attractions are 60 pubs. Also, Des McGahan, the organiser, was the man behind the Hong Kong Sevens for 16 years.

Big sponsors such as Heineken, UNISYS and Canterbury are already in place, and all eyes will be on next year's sevens, to be held over the Easter weekend.

We've been complaining about our rugby producing too many robots who can't think for themselves. Well, robots can't get away with it in sevens, which calls for all-round ability and individual inspiration. Sevens should be an integral part of any training programme because it enhances those areas of your game that are vital to success at the top level.

Sevens develops attacking vision and shows you how to spot chances to create overlaps. You need pace and fitness in abundance, but it demands a high level of mental activity, especially in decision-making. It also teaches you how to slip the ball out of tackles.

There's a big defensive element, too. You have to be quick at defensive organisation, at spotting overlaps developing, and it builds up the ability to make "ball-and-all" tackles. It's difficult to know why we neg-lect the education sevens can bring to young players.

I was so mad on sevens I was warned against burning myself out by no less a person than Bleddyn Williams. It was 1985, and Wales entered a team in the inaugural Sydney Sevens. Wales were beaten in the semi-finals by Australia, but in scoring seven tries, three of them against the All Blacks, I received a lot of recognition and some invaluable experience. Playing against France, I found myself marking Serge Blanco. I learned so much in a short time.

I was then invited to play for the Irish Wolfhounds in the Hong Kong Sevens along with players like Hugo McNeil, Willie Anderson and Brendan Mullin. I also appeared in a World Sevens tournament in South Africa in a team that included David Campese, Glen Ella and Roger Gould. Young players these days do not get comparable opportunities.

Other countries don't miss the chance. The Southern Hemisphere countries use sevens to develop players. Cam-pese was put in charge of sevens in Australia for that very purpose. The All Blacks Christian Cullen, Jonah Lomu and Eric Rush were early achievers in sevens, as were the South Africans Bobby Skinstad and Adrian Venter.

But we have great talent here. Lawrence Dallaglio and Chris Sheasby are superb sevens players, and so are Robert Howley, Colin Charvis and Chris Wyatt. There's so much to gain from stepping up our involvement in the game - that's why I'm backing Kinsale to lead the way.

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