Joel Hodgson says memories of their 2011 triumph have been fuelling Newcastle Falcons’ preparation for this evening’s JP Morgan Premiership Sevens finals.
The fly-half, who turned 21 last week, was part of the squad which defied the odds to beat much-fancied Saracens in a see-saw final two years ago.
And despite pulling out with a back injury for tonight’s event in Bath, Hodgson said: “We keep talking about 2011, and for the lads who were involved in that I don’t think it will ever leave us.
“Just getting back into sevens and playing the game again brought back all of those emotions last week during our group round in Northampton, although this season it is different because we do not have a team full of senior players.
“There are a lot more academy boys being thrown in, but they have fronted up and upset some teams who had perhaps written us off.”
Hodgson was one of three players to be stood down on the eve of the finals, with skipper Warren Fury taking a knock in training and Richard Mayhew withdrawn due to a groin problem.
In their place come Chris Harris, who featured strongly last weekend, James Fitzpatrick, a winner in 2011, and Andrew Higgins.
“In terms of how this current team compares to 2011 they are two different scenarios with two different sets of emotions surrounding them, but both united by a sense of enjoyment and hard work,” said Hodgson. “Our core principles are essentially the same, even if the personnel is different.
“Before last week’s Northampton leg we looked at the videos from two years ago, and the amount of hard work and graft that went into it. From every single player the effort was just ridiculous, and even guys who came on for the last two minutes of a game threw every single bit of energy into it. They went absolutely flat out, and that sort of doggedness can be seen again in the current squad.
“This time we have not perhaps got the likes of a Red Pennycook, a Mark Wilson or a Will Welch in the forward pack, and we might have to work hard at other things in terms of breaking defences down. We have shown we can do it, though, and that is very much the philosophy we are going down there with.”
Expecting London clubs to feature towards the business end, he added: “I recorded both of the other tournaments, and looking at the other teams you would probably expect Harlequins and Saracens to start as the favourites. Worcester also look like a side not to be messed with this.
“They remind me of the Newcastle team from two years ago – not being filled with big names, but a group of grafters who will run themselves into the ground for one another. Rather than focus too much on the opposition, though, we have just been looking at our own game, and our intention is that the opposition will only play how we allow them to play. The sevens training has been extra on top of what we have been doing with the 15-a-side squad, but we are taking it seriously and have done our homework.”
Handed the added carrot of a place in the World Club 7s at Twickenham next weekend should they bring home the top prize this evening, Hodgson said: “To be totally honest, the first time I heard about that was when the TV commentators mentioned it during the Saracens’ leg.
“Obviously it would be a great tournament to be involved with against such a diverse range of teams, and with some of the best sevens players in the world. I don’t know how many of our squad are actually aware of it, in fairness, and first things first we just want to win down in Bath.”