Rugby Sevens in Asia can grow to be 'amazing'

Dan Norton at a camp organised by fitness community UFIT at the Australian International School.
Dan Norton at a camp organised by fitness community UFIT at the Australian International School.ST PHOTO: DON CHI

Dan Norton says S'pore can also excel but the challenge is to devote time, effort to training

Having played both rugby sevens and 15s, and winning a silver medal with Britain at the Rio Olympics, England winger Dan Norton believes the sevens game has immense potential to grow in Asia.

While 15s rugby had previously featured at the Olympic Games between 1900 and 1924, sevens only made its debut in Rio this year.

Norton, who scored Britain's lone try in the Olympic final in a 43-7 defeat by Fiji, said: "Coming off the Olympics, the whole game of sevens has improved - it's taken leaps forward.

"We've got an amazing following from people watching, and people here in Singapore would have been following the matches as well.

"While I was talking to coaches here yesterday, a lot of people were talking about the sevens and everybody is excited by it."

STEPPING UP

Rugby in the whole of Asia - it's improving and getting better, and the game's growing day by day, which is amazing to see.

DAN NORTON, England winger, on the standard of rugby in Asia.

The 28-year-old, who is fourth on the World Sevens Series' list of all-time top scorers with 210 tries, was speaking to the media on the sidelines of a camp organised by fitness community UFIT at the Australian International School (AIS).

Pointing to Japan's semi-final run at the Rio Olympics as an indication of how the country's rugby scene has progressed, Norton added: "They're really taking steps forward and it's the same as rugby in the whole of Asia - it's improving and getting better, and the game's growing day by day, which is amazing to see."

A sevens specialist since 2009, Norton was part of England's Under-20 15s team who won the Six Nations Grand Slam in 2008.

Touching on the demands of both versions, he said: "You have to be able to catch, pass, run, step, tackle and kick (in sevens) - every skill you need in 15s, regardless of what player you are.

"A winger in 15s may not get as many touches on the ball, but playing sevens you get a lot more involvement - you're making a lot more tackles, you're in a lot more space and your skills are under a lot more pressure.

"So it's amazing to build up for young kids here today, and it's amazing for all levels of rugby."

Eighteen AIS pupils and students aged eight to 14 were present at yesterday's camp.

Norton believes Singapore can excel on the world sevens stage as well, but admitted the Republic's biggest challenge would be "getting the initial set-up and selection of players".

"Over here it's kind of a second job, so (the Singapore rugby players) are not able to focus as much time and effort and do as much specialist sevens training as we can do in England," he said.

"But if they can do that, they're going to see their whole skill level improve because they're going to be a lot fitter and stronger. And their skills are going to be a lot more specific to their needs of playing sevens."

Norton will feature in the Singapore leg of next year's HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series on Apr 15-16 at the National Stadium.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 27, 2016, with the headline 'Rugby Sevens in Asia can grow to be 'amazing''. Print Edition | Subscribe