Sevens from the source: an interview with Rob Vickerman

Ahead of the next stop on the Sevens World Series Tour, rugbystore caught up with England Sevens legend & Canterbury ambassador Rob Vickerman to chat all things 7’s.

rugbystore: What does it take to be a world class Sevens Player?

Rob Vickerman: Firstly, I’d say a fair set of lungs! Fitness is fundamental to Sevens as it is just relentless. The pace of the game is only getting faster, but the physicality is now also matching it. You have to be a bit of an all-rounder, capable of being comfortable with ball in hand, out of hand and communicating well throughout.

Obviously, there are a huge number of skills you need to develop to play Sevens. What three do you think should be focused on by players most?

Keeping it simple it would be handling (passing and offloading), footwork and fitness – if you have those three you won’t go far wrong!

How does all the travelling and adjusting to different time zones affect a players performance on the World Series?

It is massive. The planning around travel is fundamental for the longer legs. Teams look at best ways and times to fly, hydration and nutrition on flights, movement – and that’s before having to adjust as quickly and effectively to the dreaded jet lag! I speak a lot to companies since finishing playing regarding this issue, as it can affect all kinds of performance – not just on the rugby pitch!

During a Sevens game you can quickly be losing by a wide margin with not a lot of time to bounce back. How do you motivate a team to bounce back in such a short space of time?

A lot of the time it comes down to getting the ball back. Fatigue is such a factor during the latter stages of the games people act on instinct, and it always helps to have some star quality in the side that can get you out of the tricky situations with an outrageous break and finishing with a full length try – it’s just a bit unfair Fiji tend to have 7 of them!

there is a massive movement happening in the amount of people knowing what Sevens is about

How do you think that inclusion in the Olympics has affected Sevens popularity?

It has brought the game to a wider audience. 2 Billion people watched the Olympics, and the Sevens was a huge success story – so there is a massive movement happening in the amount of people knowing what Sevens (and Rugby) is about for both the men and more impressively for the Women’s game – which is great to see.

What are the most important factors players looking to switch from XV to Sevens should consider before doing so?

I wouldn’t place too much emphasis on this – I would just like to see more people doing it! What position people would play is a slight factor as some of the Backs roles are quite specific and can demand much more transition, than say a forward. Sevens is much more than a throw around at the end of the season as it once was – there is a whole series both internationally and socially that can take you around the world, and at the top end – to a commonwealth games, Sevens World Cup and Olympic games – it’s not a bad carrot!

Who do you think will be the top Sevens players to watch in the rest of the World Series this year?

One guy just ripping up the possibilities of what can be done on a rugby pitch is Fiji’s Jerry Tuwai. He came from the back streets of a village to become a Olympic Gold Medalist and everything about the man is just inspirational. Closer to home I am a big fan of the Bibby and Mitchell Duo – like Ant and Dec they are inseparable, often to devastating effect. Dan Norton is hitting serious form – hence why England are doing very well!

What do you think of Canterbury’s England 7’s shirt this year?

I am a big fan, I had a chair made of my England Shirts (around 15 of them) and can’t help but feel the stripes would go well on them. The contrast of orange and grey is nice mix up  – and with recent results on this series it could be considered a good luck omen!

It is a rare thing to be a Sevens Player professionally

How much did it mean to you to represent your country?

It was a huge thing. It is a very rare thing to be a Sevens Player, professionally. Only 20 players are lucky enough to do the job – and then it gets cut further to just 12 touring the world on any given tournament, and was never anything I, or any of us, took for granted. The hard work is at times unbearable – but worse for those who don’t get selected.

What was your favourite place to play?

My favourite place was Wellington. It used to come before the full on nature and razzmatazz of Vegas so was a very chilled, seaside venue that just erupted at the Weekend. 30,000 people in the most incredible fancy dress and partisan crowd made for some special memories…oh…and winning it twice helped!

What was your personal career highlight?

I got my England Sevens Cap aged 19 in France, and went back to XV’s before rupturing my ACL twice consecutively – meaning I got the ‘career ending discussions’. In that 22 months out from rugby my sole goal was to get back into the England Sevens Team to play in Dubai in 2008 and so to do that, and play in the rest of the series that year was just incredible, with a wonderful team and we made some incredible memories.

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