Glasgow Sevens: Olympics not England’s focus, says Mitchell
England captain believes they will not be distracted by the burden of Rio 2016 qualification during the eighth round of the World Series
Tom Mitchell has played down the distraction of Olympic qualification as England Sevens prepare for this weekend’s HSBC Sevens World Series event in Glasgow.
South Africa, New Zealand and Fiji should secure their places this weekend at a sold out Emirates Airline Glasgow Sevens at Scotstoun Stadium, but England know they cannot afford to slip up with Australia just nine points behind them.
For us, it’s about doing a job for England and our focus will be that first game on Saturday. That’s how we’ve gone about the whole season, so nothing is going to change now.
Mitchell led his team-mates to glory in Tokyo last month, which moved them into the crucial top four spot as the race to secure automatic qualification for next year’s inaugural rugby sevens event at Rio 2016 hots up, and the nature of the draw for this weekend means Simon Amor’s side face Australia, as well as France and newcomers Russia on Saturday.
England also have the burden of taking on qualification for Team GB, but while other nations are setting their sights on qualification this weekend, Mitchell insists their focus is on playing more good rugby and getting wins.
“It’s something that has added a lot of interest to the series so far this year,” Mitchell told The Sport Review at a photo call in Glasgow’s West End.
“Olympic qualification been a great element of the series and I think it’s drawn a lot of people in.
“For us, it’s about doing a job for England and our focus will be that first game on Saturday.
“That’s how we’ve gone about the whole season, so nothing is going to change now.
“We get a mixed reaction up here which we can thrive off, and it’s all in good spirits and good fun.
“They do a good job up here, so we’re looking forward to getting out there at the weekend and delivering some good rugby.
“We’re targeting the Australia game because it’s our first game of the tournament and that’s the only reason we’ll target that game.
“We’ve had some great games with Australia in the past, we’ve played them a few times, and it’s always a great encounter.
“We’re looking forward to what should be a good game and we’re confident that – with the quality we’ve got – if we deliver the tactical and technical things we’ve been working on in training we’ll deliver a good result.”
Mitchell believes that their long overdue cup win in Japan is reward for all the hard work the players and coaches have been putting in this season under the stewardship of former England captain Amor.
England stunned South Africa 21-14 in Tokyo for their first title since 2013 – the first since Amor took charge of the squad – and Mitchell admits that the return of a number of key players from injury helped them to success.
“It was a brilliant reward for a lot of the hard work we’ve put in this season,” he added.
“It’s been a bit of a tough season in terms of some of the injuries we’ve sustained and the timing of those injuries.
“It meant it was difficult to get continuity this season, but now we’ve got some of our big players coming back – like Dan Bibby, Phil Burgess, Marcus Watson and Dan Norton – they really strengthened the squad for those last two.
“It was a credit to them that they were really able to deliver having not had much training, but it was a reward for the whole group for the work we’ve put in.
“It was a nice reward for the boys and also for Simon for his first win.”
Mitchell concedes that this season has been tough with the Olympics adding a new dynamic to the globe-trotting rugby sevens circuit.
Without a doubt, this is the most competitive series that I’ve been involved in.
He echoes the view of New Zealand captain DJ Forbes, who also believes that the series is becoming increasingly competitive with any nation capable of winning.
And he thinks that the new element brings an added excitement to the nine-round series, which draws to a close when England host the final round at Twickenham next weekend.
“Without a doubt, this is the most competitive series that I’ve been involved in,” he said.
“It’s very close; there are no huge gaps in the table, and everyone seems to be beating everyone this year.
“That was no more evident in Tokyo last time around when there were some potential shock results.
“The series is really exciting; there’s a lot more interest in this series than ever before, and it’s great for the game.”