Mark Bennett named in extended GB 7s Olympic squad

Scotland centre Mark Bennett hopes to be an Olympian with Team GB
Scotland centre Mark Bennett hopes to be an Olympian with Team GB
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Five Scottish men and one woman have been named in the extended Great Britain sevens squads for this summer’s Rio Olympics.

Scotland centre Mark Bennett is joined by sevens specialists Mark Robertson, Scott Riddell, Gavin Lowe and Jamie Farndale in Simon Amor’s 25-man men’s training pool, while Steph Johnston is in the 23-woman GB squad.

The men will now gather on 30 May for a seven-week training period and four international competitions.

Bennett was left out of Scotland’s touring squad to Japan earlier this week and will now, along with his compatriots, look to earn a spot in the final selections as sevens makes its Olympics debut. The Glasgow Warriors centre, who was nominated for Breakthrough Player of the Year after the World Cup, represented Scotland at the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and represented Scotland on the 2013 world sevens circuit.

Riddell has competed in two Commonwealth Games, two Sevens World Cups and played in almost every minute of Scotland’s 2013-14 and 2014-15 World Series’ campaigns.

Other 15-a-side players named are Cory Allen (Cardiff Blues), James Davies (Scarlets), Ollie Lindsay-Hague (Harlequins), Joe Simpson (Wasps) and Marcus Watson (Newcastle Falcons).

Amor said: “We have watched a significant amount of footage of 15-a-side players and every sevens game from England, Scotland and Wales.

“Competition for places was tough. We’re now really looking forward to bringing this group together as one team and creating an incredible Great Britain spirit.

“One of the main strengths of the players who have been named today is their aggressive style of play in both attack and defence. Looking at how the games are won at the top level at the moment, it is very much about that physicality, teams who are fearless in the way they play.

“For the 15s players aiming to make that transition, recent sevens experience at the top level was important given how much the world of sevens rugby has progressed in the last three to four years. We were also targeting players in certain key positions to add strength in depth and complement the qualities of the specialists we already have.

“Throughout the season I have been in constant communication with Gareth Williams [Team GB Assistant Coach and Wales Sevens Head Coach] and Calum MacRae [Scotland Sevens Head Coach] and spent time with both teams in Singapore,” added Amor. “That experience was crucial in being able to select this squad. We have some very strong characters from all three countries and players who have shone in big games which is really important for us going into Rio. I know this group have an incredible work ethic and attitude.”

As part of Olympic preparations, two GB sevens squads will compete in four tournaments including the Rugby Europe Sevens Series in Moscow (4-5 June), Exeter (9-10 July) and Gdynia (16-17 July) as well as Sevens and the City at Allianz Park (2 July).

Former Scotland sevens coach Stephen Gemmell, who is now the head of the BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academy system, will be on the management group as Team Leader. Scottish physio Ali Little will also support the squad over the first seven weeks of their time together.

Johnston, meanwhile, has captained Scotland Women 7s since the team’s inception four seasons ago and joined England’s squad of 19 full-time professionals at the end of last year to train full-time.

Johnston was also included in a GB Select last December, which competed in an international invitational tournament that ran parallel to the World Rugby HSBC Sevens Series in Dubai.

With Simon Middleton as head coach, the GB women’s Olympic preparations will be supported by Rugby Europe’s tournament in Kazan (11-12 June) and an invitational event in Tignes (14-16 July).

GB Olympic training squads:

Men: C Allen (Cardiff), M Bennett (Glasgow), D Bibby (England 7s) , T Bowen (England 7s), P Burgess (England 7s), S Cross (Wales 7s), J Davies (Scarlets), A Davis (England Sevens), R De Carpentier (England 7s), J Farndale (Scotland 7s), A Gray (England 7s), C Hayter (England 7s), W Lahmert (England 7s), O Lindsay-Hague (Harlequins), G Lowe (Scotland 7s), R McConnochie (England 7s), T Mitchell (England 7s), L Morgan (Wales 7s, D Norton (England 7s), S Riddell (Scotland 7s), M Robertson (Scotland 7s), J Rodwell (England 7s), J Simpson (Wasps), L Treharne (Wales 7s), M Watson (Newcastle).

Women: (Eng unless stated) C Allan, N Brennan, A Brown, R Burford, H Fisher, V Fleetwood, N Hunt, J Joyce (Wales 7s), S Johnston (Scotland 7s), M Jones, A Matthews, F Matthews, S Mckenna, K Mclean, M Packer, A Richardson, E Scarratt, E Scott, M Staniford, D Waterman, J Watmore, K Wilson, A Wilson Hardy.