The Ramblings Of An Egg Chaser

Welcome to my blog on all things rugby related, my views are my own except where the voices in my head tell me otherwise.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

20th Year Highlights For Samurai

This year is the 20th Anniversary for Samurai 7s and it has been one of the most successful ever for the club.  Not only have the team been delivering results on the field but also the club has proved that its development pathway is second to none when it comes to finding, developing and producing top class players, coaches and staff.  Samurai have also chosen to support several charities this year including the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust who, amongst other things, look after orphan elephants until they can be reintegrated into the wild.

Samurai also wanted to document the huge number of players and staff that have represented the club that are present at every leg of the World Sevens Series.  With around a third of all the players at every leg of the WSS having pulled on a Samurai 7s jersey at some point it was decided that a club alumni photo would be taken at the final leg in London.  

It has also been a successful year for Samurai Ladies winning the Dubai 7s and the 7s In The City Tournaments.  Samurai were delighted and proud when former player Rocky Clarke became the most capped England player of all time!  

Samurai Ladies were well represented in Rio with former players in the Team GB and Australia squads.  The standout was Charlotte Caslick who won Gold with Australia under Samurai coach and player Tim Walsh

The club were also pleased when long term coach Nick Wakley was appointed to the Wales Ladies coaching team for 7s and 15s, Super Sevens Series winning coach James Bailey being appointed as the England Ladies 7s coach and former player Chris Cracknell took on the Fiji Ladies 7s team for Rio.

Samurai also continued identifying and developing young players in the Samurai Bulldogs team.  The youngsters had a great season winning at Maidenhead, Chester, Bury, 7s In The City and Harpenden with several players then given the opportunity to step up to Samurai International.
The team also gave coaching opportunities to young up and coming coaches including James Bailey, Frazer Harkness, Paul Archer and Chris Roberts.  They were also delighted to have several England 7s players who started in Bulldogs come back to help bring the next generation of 7s stars through.

 Season Highlights

We asked some of the staff involved with us in our 20th year for their season highlights:

"For me it was getting to coach the Samurai team at 7s in the City against Team GB, Wales and Barbados.  We were the only invitational team playing in the competition that included Team GB, England, Wales and France.  For us to beat Wales and to be competitive against the Team GB side that went on to win silver at the Olympics after only 24 hours preparation was a fantastic achievement!"

Nick Wakley, Coach, Samurai International RFC

"Despite the many highlights, in my opinion our best moment has to be winning the 2016 Super Sevens Series.  We were sitting in 3rd place in the table coming into the finale at Exeter Chiefs' Sandy Park. We had to win the 3rd and final leg against England 7s to take the Series and Win we did!"

Terry Sands, Founder, Samurai International RFC

 "The highlight of the year for me was the Samurai Alumni photo for our 20th Anniversary taken at the London leg of the WSS where we saw the number of players, coaches and nations that had been part of the Samurai pathway.  It showed me the high regard that Samurai held in by the Rugby 7s community worldwide.  Of course this was further reinforced by the number of Samurai men and women involved with their countries in the Rio Olympics."

Mike Friday, Chairman, Samurai International RFC

"I cannot believe the club is only twenty years old or that I have been involved for ten of them.  For me I have loved seeing our players and staff representing their countries at the Olympic Games in Rio and on the World Sevens Series.  Sometimes you do forget quite how many International players and coaches have been involved with Samurai!  

My most memorable moment was seeing the squad at the Safari 7s run out in the "Tembo" shirts in support of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.  The shirt was the idea of Terry Sands, Luke Crocker and myself after the visit to the orphanage in 2015 and incorporated the elephant mural from the orphanage wall. 

The cause is incredibly close to our hearts and to be able to use rugby and our club to raise awareness and funds for them was something very special."

Mark Dean, Operations Director, Samurai International RFC

"It was a real highlight for me to get to coach Samurai for the first time having played for them previously on several occasions.  Winning the Super Sevens Series at Sandy Park in Exeter and retaining our series title capped off an incredible summer!"

James Bailey, Coach, Samurai International

It hasn't been all plain sailing however and there have been some disappointments along the way including narrowly missing out on the Hong Kong 10s title which is the only major tournament to have so far alluded the Samurai.

"Worst moment has to be our Hong Kong 10’s defeat where we lost to the Penguins in the final minute of a 10-minute overtime period. We had lost 2 key players as they were called up to England 7s and started with only 13 men but the players put in an unbelievable effort with a passionate performance only to be pipped at the post! Sport can be cruel at times as we all know but we wouldn’t change it for the World"

Terry Sands, Founder, Samurai International

The other upset was in Amsterdam where an all Welsh Samurai team, replicating the very first Samurai team who won the trophy in 1996, failed to retain the Silver Pier trophy.

"It was disappointing not to win Amsterdam in our 20th year but I was delighted to take an  all Welsh side there again.  The team in 1996 included the likes of Martyn Williams, Neil Jenkins and Chris Wyatt so hopefully some of the youngsters we took this time will go on to have that sort of career as well!"

Nick Wakley, Coach, Samurai International

So all in all a good season for the club and a fine 20th anniversary celebration.  To help give you an idea of exactly what the club got up to in it's twentieth year take a look at the graphic below giving you our season in numbers and also a breakdown of the 22 tournaments we took part in.  See you next year for our 21st and the next chapter in the story of the best invitational rugby 7s team in the World.

Friday, 30 December 2016

20 Years Of Samurai 7s

Samurai International RFC celebrates it's 20th birthday this year so we asked some of our coaches and managers from the last 20 years to pick their Samurai All Stars Team.  

The rules were simple, they had to pick a squad of 12 players plus a manager, coach and physio.  They must either played alongside, worked alongside or coached everyone in their selection.  We also decided that each player must have played in at least 2 tournaments for Samurai and that this was specifically 7s and not 10s tournaments.  This instantly ruled out the likes of Taulupe Faletau, Chris Robshaw, Pio Tuwai, Maddison Hughes, Sam Cane and Nemani Nadolo among many many other rugby superstars!!

We also decided that at the end of it we would determine the overall greatest Samurai team of the last 20 Years by combining all of the selections (1 point per individual selection) and if there was a tie for any position then the Samurai RFC founder, Mr Terry Sands himself, would be given the casting vote.  

So let's get down to it......

Rob Thirlby Selection

First up is former England 7s and Samurai 7s player and current Samurai coach Rob Thirlby.  Rob still has one of the highest try scoring records on the World Sevens Series having only recently dropped out of the all time top ten.  His comparatively low number of tournaments to others on that list makes that feat even more impressive.  Rob had played and coached Samurai on a great many occasions so he had a lot of choice for his team.

  1. Russell Earnshaw (England)
  2. Simon Hunt (England)
  3. Gerry Engelbrekt (SA)
  4. Mike Friday (England)
  5. Tim Walsh (Australia)
  6. Nick Wakley (Wales)
  7. John Rudd (England)
  8. Ben Russell (England)
  9. Tony Roques (England)
  10. Andy Powell (Wales)
  11. James Bailey (England)
  12. Simon Amor (England)
Manager: Mark Dean
Coach: Mike Friday
Physio: Claire McLoughlin

Terry Sands Selection

Here we go with the main man himself.  Terry Sands founded Samurai in 1996 when he received an invitation to the Amsterdam 7s.  Terry has managed England 7s, England Saxons and Kenya 7s over the last twenty years as well as managing Samurai teams all over the World.  

His selection includes six Olympians, five nationalities and some of the greatest players ever to appear on the World Sevens Series.

  1. Werner Kok (South Africa & IRB Player Of The year)
  2. Sam Dickson (New Zealand)
  3. Scott Curry (New Zealand)
  4. Jack Wilson (England & New Zealand)
  5. Kwagga Smith (South Africa)
  6. Ollie Lindsay-Hague (England)
  7. Oriol Ripol (Spain)
  8. Ben Gollings (England)
  9. Ryno Benjamin (South Africa)
  10. Zar Lawrence (New Zealand)
  11. Carlin Isles (USA)
  12. David Strettle (England)

Coach - Colin Hillman (Wales)

Manager - Mark Dean (Nigeria)

Physio's - Remi Mobed (England) & Claire McLoughlin (IRB)

Tim Walsh Selection

Our next selection is from an Olympic Gold Medal winning coach, former Australia 7s player, former Samurai 7s player and Samurai Coach Tim Walsh.  

Tim has already made a few selections himself so let's find out who made the grade for one of the most highly thought of coaches in the World of Rugby 7s

  1. Andy Vilk (England & Italy Coach)
  2. Russell Earnshaw (England)
  3. Humphrey Kayange (Kenya)
  4. Mark Bright (England)
  5. Jim Jenner (England)
  6. Kevin Barrett (England)
  7. Ross Blake (England)
  8. Tim Walsh (Australia)
  9. Sherwin Stowers (New Zealand)
  10. John Rudd (England)
  11. Simon Hunt (England)
  12. David Strettle (England)
Coach: Colin Hillman
Manager: Terry Sands
Physio: Claire McLoughlin

Mark Dean Selection

Mark "Deano" Dean is the former Nigeria 7s and 15s manager and has been with Samurai for ten years having taken the very first Barracudas team to Amsterdam in 2007.  Deano has managed Samurai all over the World and worked with many of the best players and coaches to have ever been involved with Samurai.

His selection includes players from ten different nations, seven Olympians and quite a few players from the side that won the Safari 7s in 2015. 

  1. Sam Dickson (NZ) 
  2. Oscar Ouma (Kenya) 
  3. Mark Bright (England) 
  4. Pedro Leal (Portugal)
  5. Rhys Jones (Wales)
  6. Osea Kolinisau (Fiji)
  7. Chad Shepherd (Germany)
  8. Simon Hunt (England)
  9. Carlin Isles (USA)
  10. Oliviero Fabiano (Italy)
  11. Ignacio Martins (Spain)
  12. Dan Bibby (England)
Coach: Nick Wakley (Wales)
Manager: John Elliot (England)
Physio: Emma Mark (Nigeria)

Nick Wakley Selection

Nick Wakley has played and coached Samurai for over ten years. A Welsh 7s International player and now the Wales Ladies 7s coach he has won tournaments for Samurai with some of the best players all over the world.  

His selection reflects that with players from six nations including the current top try scorer and the all time top point scorer on the World Sevens Series as well as several Olympic medal winners.   

1. Humphrey Kayange (Kenya)
2. Marius Shoeman (SA)
3. John Rudd (England)
4. Sam Cross (Wales)
5. Mark Bright (England)
6. Simon Hunt *(England)
7. Ben Gollings (England)
8. Simon Amor (England)
9. Tim Walsh (Australia)
10. Zar Lawrence (New Zealand)
11. Collins Injera (Kenya)
12. Henry Speight (Australia)

Manager: Terry Sands
Coach: Colin Hillman
Physio: Claire McLoughlin

Mark Hewitt Selection

Mark Hewitt has a distinguished CV as a coach with Cornish Pirates, Gloucester and now Worcester Warriors.  He has coached Samurai to notable victories in Amsterdam and Bournemouth and worked with huge numbers of players who have gone on to have very successful Premiership careers.  
His selection contains players from throughout his career including RWC7s winner Rhodri McAtee and former International players and current International coaches Chad Sheppard, Simon Amor, Chris Cracknell and Tim Walsh.

  1. Mark Bright (England)
  2. Jacob Abbot (England)
  3. Richard De Carpentier (England)
  4. Simon Amor (England)
  5. Tim Walsh (Australia)
  6. Oriol Ripol (Spain)
  7. Christian Wade (England)
  8. Rob Vickerman (England)
  9. Chris Cracknell (England)
  10. Charlie Walker Blair (Not Capped)
  11. Chad Sheppard (Germany)
  12. Rhodri McAtee (Wales)
Manager: Matt Davies (Wasps Academy Director)
Coach: Mark Hewitt (Worcester Warriors)
Physio: Remi Mobed (England 7s & England FA)

Russell Earnshaw Selection

Russell "Rusty" Earnshaw is the former England 7s assistant coach, England 7s International, Bath player and coach of the GB Students team.  Rusty has coached and played for Samurai all over the world and as one of the longest serving members of the club it is no surprise he has made it into several team selections himself!

His selection includes Mike Boys one of the original Samurai, Simon Hunt the Samurai player of the decade (96-06) and England 15s star David Strettle along with some of the most famous names in the World of Rugby Sevens.

  1. Simon Hunt (England)
  2. Owen Scrimgeour (New Zealand)
  3. Rob Vickerman (England)
  4. Mike Friday (England)
  5. Mike Boys (Wales)
  6. Tim Walsh (Australia)
  7. David Strettle (England)
  8. Gerry Engelbrecht (South Africa)
  9. Chris Cracknell (England)
  10. Shaun Welch (Uncapped)
  11. Richard Carter (Wales)
  12. Ben Lewitt (Uncapped)
Manager: Matt Davies (Wasps Academy Director)
Coach: Colin Hillman (Wales)
Physio: Lorcan McGee (Aston Villa & GB Students)

Mike Friday Selection

Mike Friday, the current Samurai Chairman, has played for England 7s and coached England in back to back Hong Kong titles.  He has also coached Kenya to their highest ever placing on the World Sevens Series and is the current head coach of USA 7s.  Mike also coached Samurai to back to back victories in the Middlesex 7s and to their recent Amsterdam and Safari 7s triumphs.  His selection includes players from five different countries and includes the WSS all time top try scorer and several winners of the WSS player of the year award.

  1. Oscar Ouma (Kenya)
  2. Frankie Horne (SA)
  3. Phil Dowson (England)
  4. Oriol Ripol (Spain)
  5. Mike Boys (Wales)
  6. Mark Appleson (England)
  7. David Strettle (England)
  8. Humphrey Kayange (Kenya)
  9. Simon Amor (England)
  10. Kingsley Jones (Wales)
  11. Henry Paul (England)
  12. Collins Injera (Kenya)
Manager: Terry Sands
Coach: Colin Hillman
Physio: Mike Snelling

Tony Roques Selection

Tony "Rocky" Roques is an England 7s stalwart.  He played for England under Joe Lydon, Mike Friday and Ben Ryan before taking on the assistant coaching role under his former team mate Simon Amor.  Rocky has played for Samurai on numerous occasions as well including winning tournaments in Amsterdam and Basingstoke. 

His selection is the only one made up entirely  of players from one nation and also includes six players who went on to coach Samurai themselves.  He also gave our favourite reason for selecting a player (a certain Mike Friday) which was "Because he never shuts up".

  1. Phil Dowson (England)
  2. Rob Vickerman (England)
  3. Pat Sanderson (England)
  4. Simon Amor (England)
  5. Ben Gollings (England)
  6. Ben Foden (England)
  7. Dan Norton (England)
  8. Russell Earnshaw (England)
  9. Phil Greening (England)
  10. Mike Friday (England)
  11. Rob Thirlby (England)
  12. Richard Haughton (England)
Manager: Terry Sands
Coach: Simon Amor
Physio: Remi Mobed

The Samurai 1996-2016 All-Stars Selection

So, here it is, the Samurai All Stars of 1996-2016.  Six different nations from four different continents represented in the twelve man squad, players that went on to be Olympic medal winning coaches, players that went onto successful International 15-a-side careers, topped off with some SERIOUS wheels and a RWC7s winning coach at the helm.  Not bad at all.

  1.  Mark Bright (England)
  2.  Russell Earnshaw (England)
  3.  Humphrey Kayange (Kenya)
  4.  Simon Amor (England)
  5.  Tim Walsh (Australia) 
  6.  Oriol Ripol (Spain)
  7.  David Strettle (England)
  8.  Zar Lawrence (New Zealand)
  9.  Jon Rudd (England)
  10.  Carlin isles (USA)
  11.  Sam Dickson (New Zealand)
  12.  Simon Hunt (England)
On Standby:  Christian Wade, Oscar Ouma, Collins Injera, Ben Gollings

Manager: Terry Sands (England)
Coach: Colin Hillman (Wales)
Physio: Claire McLoughlin (England)

Not a bad team by any standard and one that would certainly be competitive at the highest level.  For a club that is only twenty years old to have had such a talent pool to draw on is testament to the attraction of pulling on the Samurai 7s jersey.  It makes you wonder who will be pulling on the shirt in the next twenty years!