Former Newcastle centre talks to skysports.com about England's hopes ahead of the new HSBC Sevens World Series season
By Tony Curtis - follow me on Twitter: @SkysportsTC
Last Updated: 14/11/11 7:48pm
Rob Vickerman believes England's experience will be vital as they prepare to launch their assault on the HSBC Sevens World Series title.
England fly off to Australia this week for the inaugural Gold Coast Sevens (November 25-26), with tournaments in Dubai (December 2-3) and Port Elizabeth (December 9-10) following in successive weekends.
It is a gruelling start to the series, with players not only having to cope with tough games but the rapid change in time zones.
England got last season's challenge off to a flying start with victory in Dubai followed by three further final appearances before the wheels came off their challenge in the final two legs.
However former Leeds and Newcastle centre Vickerman is confident England have the players in their initial 12-man squad to cope this time around.
"I can't wait. It is going to be pretty exciting, especially as I have never been to Australia before so I am really looking forward to it," Vickerman told skysports.com.
"It is going to be difficult start this year as there will be three legs back-to-back for the first time so in terms of logistics it will be testing.
"But we have got together an experienced squad which I think is vital, not just for what goes on on-the-field but with coping with everything off of it too and being away for that amount of time. The first event will be a travelling circus so it is something the guys will have to adapt to.
"We have a good mix of experience and youth in the squad, though. Hopefully the younger guys can look at the lads that have been there and won cups and learn from them."
England have been handed a tough draw in Australia after being pooled with Wales, Scotland and Tonga - but Vickerman admits that there are now no easy games in the series.
With sevens rapidly developing across the globe, the likes of Russia, Kenya, the USA, Portugal and Spain are among those that have beaten the more established nations.
And Vickerman, who is one of 12 players contracted to the England Sevens set-up, knows how quickly a game can turn on its head.
"It is a cliche in 15-a-side that you take each game as it comes and it is the same here in sevens," he said.
"We have got a job to do in the pool stage so we will have to see where we are at the start of day two but hopefully we are in contention.
"You can't get too far ahead of yourself because there are lot of good teams. Everyone is capable of beating each other so you can't afford to be complacent or take your eye off the ball.
"The way sevens is now means that you can be 19-0 down and still win 21-19... 21 points is seen as the magic figure to be up as the game is so fast and furious sides can come back.
"Possession is paramount, though. If you look at Samoa when they won the title, they had come up with a specific tactic to win the ball at the kick-off.
"They won something like 85-90 per cent of all kick-offs. If you can do that and then keep the ball for two, three minutes you are well on your way."
The 26-year-old Vickerman, who made his sevens debut in 2004, has been impressed with the mentality and spirit within Ben Ryan's squad.
"We are all good mates off the field but the guys are all competitive too," he added.
"There is an edge which means we all know that we have to perform.
"There is a club mentality in terms of the banter and that but we know we have got a job to do. We are in this to win tournaments and to be the best in the world, we are serious about that."
England head into the series without their record points scorer Ben Gollings, who is now on the coaching staff at Rugby.
However Vickerman insists England have players across the squad to raise to the challenge.
"Dan Norton, Nick Royle, Marcus Watson and John Brake are the kind of guys who can turn it on and when they hit their straps they can be untouchable," he added.
"You have got Nick who got 45 tries in the summer but if he doesn't score he creates the space for others to benefit from.
"A lot of the guys have worked with Jon Callard over the summer and learned a lot from him. Mat Turner, Dan Norton, Christian Lewis-Pratt and Marcus Watson have all been looking good.
"Christian before his injury was doing really well but the others have all stepped up and it is vital to have three or four players able to come in."