By Andy Baber in Birmingham
England skipper Alex Davis praised his players for overcoming tired minds and bodies to finish their sevens campaign on a high after a difficult Commonwealth Games campaign.
This summer, Team England, supported by funding raised by National Lottery players, comprises of over 400 athletes, all vying for medal success.
Two defeats from three games in the group stage against Samoa and New Zealand proved fatal to Team England’s chances of emulating the bronze medal they won at Gold Coast 2018.
But wins over Jamaica and home nation rivals Wales set up a play-off for ninth with Uganda, which the hosts won 31-17 thanks to a hat-trick from 22-year-old Jamie Adamson.
And while questions remain over a difficult Games for England on the field, Gloucester-born Davis took encouragement from the spirit his team showed after their medal disappointment.
“It’s fantastic, I’m really pleased with how we rounded off the tournament,” said the skipper, who grew up in Bristol. “It’s never easy in game six, day three, bodies are tired, minds are tired.
“But the boys did a brilliant job sticking in it, staying in every single fight and I’m really pleased to come out with a with a ‘W’ in the end. It was great out there.
“The atmosphere has been building all weekend and Uganda have been crowd favourites all weekend, so we knew we would be up against it.
“It’s always special playing in front of a home crowd. We obviously travel all over the world and often we don’t get many families and friends to play in front or a home support.
“So, to have that here was amazing and to be part of that wider Team England was particularly special. We got the LA Sevens up next in August and then our World Cup in Cape Town. That’s another big tournament in the year but we’ll look forward to some rest now.”
The poor performance of the home nations at Birmingham 2022 has intensified the spotlight on the sevens programme, with Scotland’s men the only team to get out of their group.
England’s women also came up short in their medal quest, finishing fifth after winning bronze in 2018, ahead of the merger of the three nations for the 2023 World Sevens Series.
The teams were previously combined to form Great Britain men's and women's teams in 2021 amid funding cuts, after England’s players lost their central contracts during the pandemic.
Ex-Hartpury duo Abbie Brown and Meg Jones were both in action for the women as they beat Scotland 29-5 in their final game and despite having such an up-and-down campaign, Brown hopes her team have inspired the next generation of girls to pick up a ball.
“The effort the girls showed out there was amazing and to finish with a win was amazing. In front of a home crowd too, we enjoyed that,” said the co-captain.
“We’re good mates with some of the (Scotland) girls, so it was a bit tough. But once you’re on the pitch you’re thinking of yourself and your team and what the jersey represents.
“We did a lap of honour and the number of girls and boys who wanted a photo and autograph is exactly why we do it. That to me is bigger than any medal.
“It’s about visibility so if you can watch it, they can aspire to be like that. If you put it on TV and put it on the BBC, people will enjoy watching it. It is something we fight for every day.
“We keep pushing and pushing those boundaries. I never saw many rugby players growing up, so if I can be like that for some little girl because it’s on TV then I’ve done my job.”
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