Jason Robinson has saluted the feat of England’s world record breaker Dan Norton, and backed the arch-finisher to extend his lead at the top of the HSBC Sevens World Series try-scoring charts over the coming years.
Coming into the Hong Kong Sevens level with Kenya’s Collins Injera on 244 career tries since his debut in 2009, Norton needed a single touchdown to go out on his own as the most prolific player in Series history.
Joining England’s tournament-opening 52-0 victory over South Korea as a second-half replacement, the 29 year-old gathered a pass from James Rodwell on the edge of his own 22 and chipped over the defence before regathering to score.
Robinson, who scored 30 Test tries for England and the British & Irish Lions, said: “I played league and union and thought I was relatively fit. But sevens is a lot different. Before you make a 60-metre break to score a try, you might have had to run back 40 metres to make a tackle. Then the opportunity to get turnover ball in your hands comes three phases later when you’re blowing.
“Dan’s 29 now and he’s done it for so long, so hats off to him. He’s got great, great gas. He makes really quick players look sluggish at times, and it’s not only that – he’s got the step, he chips ahead for himself. He lights up the circuit with the stuff he’s able to do.”
A 30-second cameo off the bench for Gloucester in the Premiership nine years ago represents the height of Norton’s time in the 15-a-side game, but he has been synonymous with the growth of sevens as an autonomous professional sport. His silver medal from the 2016 Olympic Games with Great Britain stands testament to that.
With Injera also in Hong Kong but failing to score in Kenya’s first game against Canada, Robinson believes Norton should aim to achieve even more. “At 29, you’re still in your prime. You can gather up all your experience and use it. You wouldn’t look at Dan Norton and think, ‘He’s only got a couple of years to go’.
“He might have another four years in him. After Dan and Collins Injera, there is a significant gap, so it’d take a massive effort from somebody to catch him up and there are a lot more tries left in him.”
Tougher challenges against Australia and Samoa complete England’s Pool A schedule. Still second on the World Series ladder following tournament victories in Cape Town and Vancouver, Simon Amor’s side will feel confident.
Norton has excelled in sevens for almost a decade, but Robinson insisted that the sport’s increasing scale and popularity can satisfy the ambitions of specialists. “The amount of people that watch an Olympics is phenomenal, so sevens joining it was great for the whole sport,” he said. “The women’s game has seen huge growth.”