Newcastle Falcons’ senior side have been backed to benefit from the club’s ongoing association with sevens rugby.
The Falcons were in Bath on Friday for the finals of the JP Morgan Premiership 7s, assistant coach Mark Laycock quick to highlight the benefits of the abbreviated code.
Sevens internationals to push on in the 15-a-side version have included Jonah Lomu, Lawrence Dallaglio and former Falcon Mathew Tait – and Newcastle have long been advocates of the format.
Laycock said: “Sevens is on the rise now, with being accepted as an Olympic sport in Rio 2016.
“The Premiership Sevens and then the World Club Sevens are both new and exciting steps in terms of the game’s development, and from a supporters’ point of view the tournaments are exciting.
“There are quick, high-intensity games. A lot of them have gone down to the very last play, and there is that bit razzmatazz with the cheerleaders and all the rest of it.”
An oval-ball equivalent of T-20 cricket, in many ways, Laycock added: “Sevens is really just an adaptation of 15-a-side rugby, which the Falcons squad are obviously in the process of preparing for.
“There are not as many players on the pitch, which means there is a lot more space, and it is just about using the ball in a little bit of a smarter way.
“The basic principles are the same, and there are a lot of transferable skills. It is still rugby, but perhaps in sevens you might try and keep the ball a little bit longer than you would normally do.
“That ability to force a mistake or a gap in the defence is key when you are attacking, and your core skills of handling, evasion and tackling are really put under the micro-scope in a way they might not necessarily be in 15s.”
Charged with developing the club’s next generation in his role as Falcons academy manager, Laycock has presided over Newcastle sevens squads including future internationals Tim Visser and Lee Dickson, to name just two.
“We do take pride in our sevens here at the Falcons, and a lot of players have come through that system who have gone on to play for their countries – both at sevens and 15s.
“It is an important development tool for our lads, and when you speak to the first-team players who are involved in the tournament then they absolutely love the experience of it. Especially for the younger guys, very rarely will they get the chance to play in front of 10,000 people.
“In terms of their development it is a very good insight for them into what it is like being in that kind of environment, and it means that when they eventually break through to the first team they have a flavour of what the atmosphere is going to be like.
“For the older lads it is a useful blow-out as well as some valuable contact work, and everybody loves winning trophies no matter in which code they come.”
It will be 15-a-side rugby to the fore tomorrow, however, as the Falcons travel to France for the first of their three pre-season friendlies.
They take on Bath in the town of Beziers, the 5.30pm UK-time kick-off providing the warm-up act for the local derby between French Second Division rivals Beziers and Narbonne.
The games are both part of the Feria, a four-day carnival centred on bull-fighting and music, with thousands of people lining the streets.
Tomorrow’s match will give Dean Richards and his Falcons side the ideal chance to size up Bath, whom they meet at Kingston Park on September 6 when the new Aviva Premiership season clicks into gear – Bath now led by former Newcastle director of rugby, Gary Gold.