Home nations experience humbling in rugby sevens at Commonwealth Games

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COVENTRY, ENGLAND - JULY 30: Isla Norman-Bell of Team England is tackled by Donelle Snyders of Team South Africa during the Women's Rugby Sevens Semi-Final match between Team England and Team South Africa on day two of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games at Coventry Stadium on July 30, 2022 on the Coventry, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/2022 Getty Images)
COVENTRY, ENGLAND - JULY 30: Isla Norman-Bell of Team England is tackled by Donelle Snyders of Team South Africa during the Women's Rugby Sevens Semi-Final match between Team England and Team South Africa on day two of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games at Coventry Stadium on July 30, 2022 on the Coventry, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/2022 Getty Images)

By Andy Baber, Sportsbeat

A home nations humbling at the Commonwealth Games has only exacerbated the turmoil in rugby sevens ahead of next season’s merger of England, Scotland, and Wales.

Only Scotland’s men made it through to the knockout phase at Birmingham 2022, with Team England’s men and women both falling short of the medal matches in Coventry.

This year’s hosts claimed double bronze at Gold Coast 2018 but comprehensive defeats to New Zealand in their final group games ensured there would be no repeat four years later.

Those results come off the back of the decision from the three unions to combine once again to form Great Britain men’s and women’s teams for the 2023 World Sevens Series.

And opinion amongst the players was mixed on the future direction of the sevens game, with Welsh winger Lloyd Lewis concerned about impact it will have on his country’s team.

“Obviously, it’s come out in the press that it's going to GB sevens now for next season which is a bit disappointing as a lot of the boys will miss out,” said Lewis.

“We don’t really know what’s happening. It’s all up in the air but as a squad we’re just focusing on this, finishing the World Series in LA in August and then the World Cup in September.

“We’re all just trying to enjoy our time in the jersey while we can.”

Tyler Morgan has only recently joined the sevens programme and admitted it is a shame that chances could be more limited once the home nations combine to form GB again.

“I’m not sure how the programme is going to look next year,” said Morgan, who also featured alongside Lewis for Wales in their 38-24 defeat to the formidable Fiji in their final Pool C game.

“There will still be some sort of Wales setup but just not in the World Sevens Series and there should be a lot of boys here going to GB as we have got a decent set of players here.

“They are talented guys and very good individuals so hopefully a lot of them go on to represent GB but it’s a shame there’s only one World Sevens Series tournament left for us.

“I can’t really say what the future is going to look like, we’re going to have to wait a year or two to see how it goes. Obviously having less players playing at the top level is difficult.

“You have less exposure than if you’re on a stronger team competing for trophies, but you learn a lot about winning. It’s a fine balance and we probably won’t know until four years' time.”

The home nation sides previously came to gather under the GB banner in 2021 amid funding cuts in preparation for the Tokyo Olympic Games, with England's players losing their central contracts in August 2020 because of the financial impact of the Covid pandemic.

But Team England captain Alex Davis, speaking after his side were handed a 20-0 defeat by the Kiwis in their final Pool A game, backed the move to combine the unions again.

“It’s a big step up and I think it’s great for the home nations and for the growth of British sevens, with the Olympics being the pinnacle of the sport now. I think it’s the right thing,” said Davis.

His thoughts were echoed by Tom Bowen, another member of the bronze medal-winning squad on the Gold Coast, who believes the GB approach will provide something to aspire to.

“It will just bring a bit more depth because as an England programme we only have eight contracts this year and we’re bringing boys in and out,” said the 28-year-old sevens veteran.

“Hopefully as the GB programme we can have a lot more full-time players, we can be professional the whole time and just be able to drive that environment.

“We can have something for sevens players to aspire to, something that we can put on that pedestal and say look if you’re playing well you can play for GB. A proper career paths.”

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