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Simon Amor backs Great Britain rugby sevens squad to shine at Rio Olympics

Published 19/07/2016

Scotland's Mark Bennett has been included in the Great Britain rugby sevens squad for the Rio Olympics
Scotland's Mark Bennett has been included in the Great Britain rugby sevens squad for the Rio Olympics

Great Britain's men are confident of a successful Olympics, despite the sevens tournament appearing something of an afterthought for the home unions.

The British Olympic Association on Tuesday named the 12-player men's and women's squads for Rio, completing Team GB at 366 athletes across 23 sports for the Games which open on August 5.

The women's group, led by England's Emily Scarratt and five other 15-a-side World Cup winners, have trained together since last October.

Seven weeks of preparation is all that has been afforded the British men's squad after political manoeuvrings among the unions, with Scotland's Mark Bennett the most established 15-a-side player involved.

Wales wing Corey Allen missed out, while Marcus Watson, brother of England wing Anthony, and James Davies, brother of Wales centre Jonathan have been included.

Team GB men's head coach Simon Amor said: "It's obviously been a very big challenge compared to the rest of the opposition. (But) it's a challenge we've known about since the start.

"The quality of the squad we've got is very, very good. We've got a great blend and balance of sevens specialists with huge world series experience, to guys in the 15-a-side who have had sevens experience previously and are world class in their own right.

"The challenge for us now in a short space of time is can we gel those combinations? The 12 we've got are very special."

Britain play a New Zealand side including two-time World Cup winner Sonny Bill Williams in the pool stage but Amor will not be casting a jealous glance.

He is thrilled with the squad assembled and wished he could have called upon more names from the initial 25-man group.

Amor said: "We don't look enviously at anyone. We're about ourselves. It's a very special group of guys.

"I can't quite put into words how well they've been this past six, seven weeks.

"In an ideal world we would've taken 20 people plus to Rio. It was that close on so many calls.

"We've picked who we think are the best combinations to go up against the best of the world in New Zealand, South Africa, Fiji."

Bennett is joined by another Scot in the ranks, in sevens specialist Mark Robertson, with Sam Cross a second Welshman, taking the non-English contingent to four.

Tom Mitchell is captain of a squad featuring James Rodwell, who set a new world record earlier this year after playing in 69 consecutive World Rugby Sevens Series' tournaments, and Dan Norton, the series' fourth-highest leading scorer of all time.

It will be the first time in 108 years that Team GB have had representation in rugby at Olympic level and a first for the seven-a-side format.

The women's team includes Katy McLean, who captained England to the 15-a-side World Cup win in 2014. Only one non-English player, Jasmine Joyce of Wales, is included.

Scarratt believes sevens glory would rival the World Cup win.

She said: "You compare with the biggest thing in your sport. In rugby sevens it is the Olympics, the gold medal would be right up there, alongside the World Cup one.

"Brazil's the first game and we have to concentrate on that. Sevens is a tough game and there's so many upsets. I'm sure the Olympics will be no exception. We need to make sure we're right on our mettle.

"If we can get our consistency of performance right, we believe we can beat any team in the world on our day."

Competition takes place over six days with the women competing first from August 6 to 8 at the Deodoro Stadium in a pool which includes hosts Brazil, Japan and Canada.

The men's competition follows from August 9 to 11 with Kenya, Japan and New Zealand the pool stage opposition.

Great Britain sevens squads:

Men: Mark Bennett, 23, Glasgow; Dan Bibby, 25, Putney; Phil Burgess, 28, Farnborough; Sam Cross, 23, Newport; Alex Davis, 23, Bristol; James Davies, 25, Carmarthen; Ollie Lindsay-Hague, 25, London; Tom Mitchell, 27, Wandsworth; Dan Norton, 28, Bristol; James Rodwell, 31, Cotteridge; Mark Robertson, 31, Galashiels; Marcus Watson, 25, Weybridge. Travelling reserves: Luke Treharne, 23, Llanelli; Ruaridh McConnochie, 24, Kingston upon Thames.

Women: Claire Allan, 31, Ealing; Abbie Brown, 20, Exeter; Heather Fisher, 32, Birmingham; Natasha Hunt, 27, Gloucester; Jasmine Joyce, 20, Haverfordwest; Katy McLean, 30, South Shields; Alice Richardson, 29, Worcester; Emily Scarratt, 26, Leicester; Emily Scott, 24, Corringham; Danielle Waterman, 31, Bristol; Joanne Watmore, 29, Chester; Amy Wilson-Hardy, 24, Poole. Travelling reserves: Megan Jones, 19, Cardiff; Kay Wilson, 24, Caterham.

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