The finals of the Singha Premiership 7s take place at Harlequinsâ€™ Twickenham Stoop this evening, with Gloucester searching for a third title in a row.
The action all begins at 18.00 with the first quarter final, Newport Gwent Dragons v Sale Sharks, and ends with the final at 21.45.
Sale are once again led my England U20 international James Mitchell, a former Lymm High School pupil, with fellow youngsters in Liam Parfitt, Matt Postlethwaite, George Nott, Conor Dever, and Cameron Neild joining him.
Pete Anglesea coaches the side, and speaking ahead of the competition, he said:
“We are really pleased to have qualified into the Finals Day. It was great to get some Sevens experience under their belt. This weekend provides a totally new challenge, playing in front of a big crowd at the Stoop, but it’s one we are looking forward to and hopefully the lads will go out there and express themselves.”
The Dragons include one of the stars of the 2013 World Rugby U20 Championship, Angus Oâ€™Brien, who has also played for Wales 7s in the HSBC 7s World Series this year. Fellow youngsters James Benjamin, Luc Jones, and Ashton Hewitt are also included.
Speaking on his involvement, Oâ€™Brien said:
“I am really looking forward to the finals. I was lucky enough to play last year and we managed to get to the final that year but narrowly lost out to Gloucester Rugby. Since last year I have had a bit a sevens experience with Wales, so hopefully I can pass on as much as I have learnt to the other guys.â€
“We have Sale Sharks up first, as the first game of the evening, they are looking strong but hopefully we get past them in order to move onto the next match.”
Following that game comes the second quarter final, and arguably one of the games of the evening, Gloucester v Harlequins, the reigning champions against the hosts.
Gloucester have made changes after sweeping all before them in the qualifying stage at Kingsholm, bringing in one of the hottest prospects on the school circuit last year, Mat Protheroe, for the injured youngster Lloyd Evans.
7s superstar Steph Reynolds captains the side, but it is a largely youthful one, with academy players Will Safe and Joe Mullis joining Protheroe, as well as senior academy players in Ollie Thorley and Elliott Creed.
Scotland U20 scrum half Ben Vellacott is also included in the squad, yet another of this superb Gloucester half back factory at the moment.
Olly Morgan once again coaches the side, and he commented:
“It’s another final but it’s also about the occasion for the young guys and hopefully being part of a successful competition. Harlequins have consistently been in the finals in the last few years and have been in the World Sevens Series.
“They’re coached by Howard Graham, a Sevens specialist, they play a good brand of rugby from a strong academy and good senior players, and I’m sure they will be a strong outfit.”
Howard Grahamâ€™s Quins side is one of the youngest, and arguably most exciting, in the entire competition. 17 year old John Fisher pupil Nathan Thomas comes into the squad, as does former Wellington College flanker Ed Forshaw.
Joining Thomas are two other current schoolboys in England U18 international and Trinity School pupil Gabriel Ibitoye, and Cranleighâ€™s Dino Lam-Cona.
Forshawâ€™s former Wellington College teammate Sam Aspland-Robinson is also included, having just finished school, as is a fellow school leaver, Luke White, who captained Bromsgrove to NatWest Cup glory back in March.
The squad is captined by England u20 star Joe Marchant, and he is joined by a fellow U20 star in John Fisher old boy Kieran Treadwell, while Scotland U20 international Robbie Nairn is also included.
Following that clash comes Wasps v Exeter Chiefs, and Wasps look as though they are determined to claim the silverware this year, with three absolute stars of the long game all included, Elliott Daly, Joe Simpson, and top try scorer, Christian Wade.
While the Wasps squad is largely experienced, they do find room to include some youth, in line with all of the other sides in action tonight. Wellington College leaver, and star of their unbeaten 7s run, Conor Dolan is retained in the squad that went so well at the Ricoh. They also include Harrow School leaver Owain James as a non playing reserve.
Speaking ahead of the game, Daly said:
“Friday probably went better than we expected. We came together for a few training sessions beforehand, but the side we put out meant we could have a bit of fun and hopefully we can do well on Friday. With a longer off-season this year, it’s a perfect opportunity for players to get out onto the field and show what we can do as part of our pre-season schedule.â€
“The quality of the teams that have gone through is really high, so it’s going to be a tough evening. Exeter Chiefs will be a difficult start and if we were to win that one, we know neither Newcastle nor Scarlets will be easy, but we are all looking forward to the challenge.”
Exeter on the other hand have opted for a much more youthful policy, and with one of their former academy prospects, Henry Slade, causing such a stir already this week by forcing his way into the England World Cup squad, why not.
Included in their squad are England U20 scrum half Stuart Townsend, his U18 counterpart Jack Maunder, a fellow U20 teammate of Townsend in Sam Skinner, and former stars of the school circuit in ex Tonbridge skipper Matt Eliet, and ex Prior Park College skipper Pete Laverick.
Speaking ahead of the game, the Chiefs coach said:
“It will be one hell of a night down there, I think for us to qualify and go down there and be in the finals will be a real test for the guys. It’s what we want as coaches though – to put the young guys in these positons to test their mental character and physical character.â€
“The sides who have already qualified means there will be some individuals who have been on the sevens circuit with a sprinkling of younger guys. And I’m just really excited to see what we can do down there. After playing at Kingsholm, to see them going down there full of confidence will be great.”
Reflecting on last weekâ€™s performance, he said:
“We asked them to play with a smile on their faces and they did that, Â I think Friday is going to be a hell of a day for this club and for the young guys. This is a great tournament for us to see the guys at university and at our senior academy really front up. I know all the senior squad plays back at home will have seen all of that and be really pleased for these younger guys.”
“This tournament is about blooding some of the older guys like Sam Simmonds and Sam Skinner, who led from the front. But the younger guys, like Joe Simmonds, forced their way into the side and some of the cover tackles he put in were outstanding.â€
The final quarter final of the evening, at 19.15, sees Newcastle Falcons play Llanelli Scarlets. The winner of each quarter will reach the semis, with the loser playing in the Plate semi finals.
Newcastle once again bring in a number of 7s specialists, but are led by England U18 captain Callum Chick, who is joined by fellow England U18 prospect, Joe Craggs, and the ever exciting Tom Penny.
The squad also includes a student in Northumbria Universityâ€™s Donald Crawford, and is coached by Mark Laycock, who said:
“There were some very impressive performances by the guys last weekend, particularly our persistence and the way we finished each game strongly.”
“With some very good teams qualifying for the Finals we’ll need to dig deeper to progress and to achieve what we want to as a group but with a good balance of experience and young, hungry talent, we are giving ourselves a good platform to build on.”
The Scarlets meanwhile include Scarlets academy prospect Matthew Owen, who has been handed a regional development contract for 2015-16 haivng just finished school.
Dai Flanagan coaches the side, and speaking ahead of the competition, he said:
“Firstly I’d like to thank the clubs who have made players available for Friday’s series final. It is a fantastic opportunity for the young players to get experience and play to a big crowd.â€
“It is also a great opportunity for them to pull on the regional shirt and represent the Scarlets on a national stage. We’re very much looking forward to the series final and will be looking to be as competitive as we can in what is expected to be a thrilling final.”
As ever, with some of the youngest and brightest talents in the country on show, the Singha 7s looks set to be another thrilling evening, with Gloucester searching for the hat-trick, Wasps seemingly desperate for victory, and Harlequins with an immensely young and exciting side.
Itâ€™s not to be missed!
Singha 7s Schedule:
6.00pm â€“ QF1 – Newport Gwent Dragons v Sale Sharks
6.25pm â€“ QF2 – Gloucester v Harlequins
6.50pm â€“ QF3 â€“ Wasps v Exeter Chiefs
7.15pm â€“ QF4 â€“ Newcastle Falcons v Scarlets
7.40pm â€“ Plate SF1 â€“ Loser QF1 v Loser QF2
8.05pm â€“ SF1 â€“ Winner QF1 v Winner QF2
8.30pm â€“ Plate SF2 â€“ Loser QF3 v Loser QF4
8.55pm â€“ SF2 â€“ Winner QF3 v Winner QF4
9.20pm â€“ Plate Final
9.45 â€“ Cup Final
Singha 7s Finals Day Squads:
1 Sam Skinner
2 Stuart Townsend
3 Sam Simmonds (c)
4 Jack Maunder
5 Pete Laverick
6 Adam Hughes
7 Adam Worth
8 Matt Eliet
9 Tom Holdsworth
10 Harry Strong
11 Joe Simmonds
12 Alex Ducker
1. Steve McColl,
2. Joe Mullis,
3. Elliott Creed,
4. Ollie Thorley,
5. Jack Evans,
6. Will Safe,
7. Dan Thomas,
8. Gareth Evans,
9. Ben Vellacott,
10. Mat Protheroe,
11. Steph Reynolds (c)
12. Mark Atkinson
1. Senitiki Nayalo
2. Siva Naulago
3. Dino Lamb-Cona
4. Kieran Treadwell
5. Ed Forshaw
6. Gabriel Ibitoye
7. Joe Marchant (C)
8. Luke White
9. Calum Waters
10. Sam Aspland-Robinson
11. Robbie Nairn
12. Nathan Thomas
1. Joe Craggs
2. Scott Riddell
3. Callum Chick (c)
4. Gavin Lowe
5. Seb Ferreira
6. Donald Crawford
7. Dan Marshall
8. Michael Fedo
9. Tom Penny
10. Joe Nayacavou
11. James Fleming
12. Jamie Farndale
Newport Gwent Dragons:
1. Matthew Pewtner
2. Arwel Robson
3. Harri Keddie
4. Ollie Griffiths
5. Luke Crocker
6. James Benjamin
7. Geraint Rhys Jones (c)
8. Elliot Frewen
9. Luc Jones
10. Ashton Hewitt
11. Angus O’Brien
12. Jonathan Lewis
1. Nev Edwards
2. Liam Parfitt
3. Matt Postlethwaite
4. George Nott
5. Matt Rogerson
6. Cameron Neild
7. John O’Donnell
8. Sam James
9. James Mitchell (c)
10. Tom Morton
11. Conor Dever
12. Mark Jennings
1. Jake Conway
2. Matthew Owen
3. Jacob Unwin
4. Justin James
5. Aaron Evans
6. Shaun Pearce
7. Aaron Warren
8. Iolo Eans [capt.]
9. Lee Rees
10. Matthew Jacobs
11. Chris Banfield
12. Rhodri Jones
1. Joe Simpson
2. Elliot Daly
3. Christian Wade
4. Conor Dolan
5. Alex Rieder
6. Sam Jones
7. Thomas Young
8. Guy Thompson (c)
9. Dan Robson
10. Alex Lozowski
11. Josh Bassett
12. Brendan Macken