After a long pre-season the boys were really excited to have a proper hit out in conditioned training games against Scotland and Wales at the Millennium Stadium last week. They’ve been slogging it out on the training field and the gym for about four months now and were chomping at the bit to get out on the field again.
On a personal level that was most definitely the case. In May, I fractured my leg and dislocated my ankle – they had to re-attach the ligaments to the ankle so it was a fairly nasty one – and I was sidelined for about five months or so. During that time I also had my knee operated on. So it felt good to finally be able to replicate the intensity of a sevens international – and the venue wasn’t bad either! With it being my first run out for a while, it was a bit of a shock to the system but I was pleased to be back out there with the boys.

I’m indebted to the England Sevens medical staff, in particular physio Remi Mobed, who has been outstanding with me. Working with him has actually made the five-month rehabilitation process enjoyable, as strange as that may sound.

Initially I wasn’t fully aware of the extent of my injury but within 48 hours I’d had it operated on and we knew what needed to be done to repair it. It was at that point that where I sort of realised how serious an injury it was.

It probably wasn’t that long ago that it would potentially have been a career-ending injury, and having to deal with thoughts like that has made me a stronger person mentally. It was just unfortunate that I had to cancel another summer holiday with my girlfriend! The first time that happened was when I broke my metatarsal in the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

“It probably wasn’t that long ago that it would potentially have been a career-ending injury, and having to deal with thoughts like that has made me a stronger person mentally.”
Tom Mitchell, England Sevens
I was very fortunate to have access to the kind of medical expertise that’s enabled me to get me back out on the field ahead of the start of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2015-16. But hopefully all my injury problems are behind me now.

FEELING INVINCIBLE AGAIN

It is amazing how quickly and easily you take things for granted. You get a couple of training sessions under your belt and you feel like you are invincible again. To be honest though, you have to be that way. You can’t dwell on the progress you’ve made because the hard work doesn’t stop with getting fit again.

I am certainly not resting on my laurels now that I am back, as a player you are always striving to make improvements. But I am certainly excited to be working on rugby drills and skills again rather than having to learn how to run again.

In Dubai we’re in the same pool as Wales and I am sure the match will be just as fierce as it always is. All the players from the home unions will be looking to play well for their countries because they know that if they do that then they’ll have put their hand up for Team GB selection. I’m sure everyone will be going at each other as hard as they can.

As rugby sevens players the Olympics may have only been in our frame of reference for the last four years, however, as sportsmen and women, we all know it’s an incredibly powerful thing to be associated with. It is the pinnacle of sport and now it’s the pinnacle of sevens. It will definitely add spice to the season. Mark Hunter, an ex-GB Olympic rower, gave us a talk the other day and I started to get sweaty palms just thinking about it!

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CONSISTENCY IS KEY

As for England, we made a lot of progress in the series last year in terms of self-belief and how to manage ourselves in and around a tournament. We were a little bit hindered by a few injuries at the start of last season – we only had eight or nine fit bodies going into day two in Dubai, for example – and that made consistency difficult. Everyone knows that the key to doing well in the series is to be consistent across all nine or 10 tournaments. I thought we came back well though and the experience will stand us in good stead.

That consistency applies not just from tournament to tournament but within a tournament itself. If you have got 12 guys who consistently turn up for every game you’ve got a really good chance of doing well. Teams who’ve got a couple of superstars here and there will probably deliver some big performances but will they be able to carry that over from game to game?

With the Olympics around the corner there have been a lot of murmurings in the press about which 15s stars might come across to sevens. We never really concern ourselves with that too much as a squad but I think it is entirely understandable because the pull of playing in the Olympics is so strong. It’s exciting and it adds profile of the game of sevens, but I think people are reading it wrong if they think that one star can make all the difference.

60 SECONDS WITH … TOM MITCHELL

First rugby experience? Playing touch rugby at my local rugby club, East Grinstead. No-one told me it was touch and I cleaned a guy out and we all started crying.

First match? My first professional sevens match was playing for England against Cook Islands at Wellington 2012. I scored a try with my first touch and I have been loving it ever since.

Which part of training do you miss the least? To be honest I’ve never been a big fan of the gym in general so you can imagine spending five months in there doing my rehab was testing in some respects.

Sporting idol? Obviously I’ve got so much respect for Jonah Lomu who changed the game and is a terribly sad loss. But growing up my idol was Jonny Wilkinson.

Best sporting memory? Winning in Tokyo last season. It was my first ever tournament win and just a great feeling.

Of all the players on the sevens series past and present who would you like to have on your team? I’d love to have Serevi, one of the all-time greats. It would have been great fun to try and play off him.

Favourite film and book? Favourite book is probably Candide by Voltaire. I studied it at school, loved it and I’ve kept reading it ever since. It is fairly short which is a bonus.

Favourite film? Remember the Titans – a cheesy American classic.

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