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England hunt improved Sevens standing

Thursday 31 Jan 2013 4:51 p.m.

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The World Sevens Series has become more cut-throat and some major nations are suffering.

Olympic funding is boosting some of the minor players and a new promotion-relegation system means teams can't afford to slip up.

England, New Zealand's first opponent in Wellington tomorrow, is feeling it more than most, languishing in 13th on the table.

“It's been a disaster of a start,” says English coach Ben Ryan.

England averages one tournament win each year but hasn't made a cup quarter-final yet, trailing minnows Portugal, Canada and the US on the table.

Their smiles will disappear if they don't make the top 12 and avoid the new promotion-relegation system.

“We still think we'll get top three. We'll win a tournament this year. When we manage to do it, we'll see, but we're certainly not looking at that,” says Mr Ryan.

Last season's top try-scorer Mat Turner's back from injury, but he admits in the new Sevens climate few victories are a given.

“[In the past] you'd win by 40 points but now every game is hard. Every team has its own game plan. Everyone is full time now so you never know what's going to come,” he says.

New Zealand veteran Lote Raikabula agrees.

“The last tournament in South Africa there was no Samoa in the quarterfinal, there was no Australia. You see the likes of Portugal and India, so it's getting tougher and tougher,” he says.

Adding to that it's tougher for England and the Great British nations to target the 2016 Rio Olympics.

“It's complicated. It'll be, I'm sure, a version on the British Lions. It means we're a little bit behind the other guys because it is just one country for everyone else,” says Mr Ryan.

In the meantime England's focussing on waving it's own flag a little better.

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