The Ramblings Of An Egg Chaser

Welcome to my blog on all things rugby related, my views are my own except where the voices in my head tell me otherwise.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

20th Year Highlights For Samurai

This year is the 20th Anniversary for Samurai 7s and it has been one of the most successful ever for the club.  Not only have the team been delivering results on the field but also the club has proved that its development pathway is second to none when it comes to finding, developing and producing top class players, coaches and staff.  Samurai have also chosen to support several charities this year including the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust who, amongst other things, look after orphan elephants until they can be reintegrated into the wild.

Samurai also wanted to document the huge number of players and staff that have represented the club that are present at every leg of the World Sevens Series.  With around a third of all the players at every leg of the WSS having pulled on a Samurai 7s jersey at some point it was decided that a club alumni photo would be taken at the final leg in London.  

It has also been a successful year for Samurai Ladies winning the Dubai 7s and the 7s In The City Tournaments.  Samurai were delighted and proud when former player Rocky Clarke became the most capped England player of all time!  

Samurai Ladies were well represented in Rio with former players in the Team GB and Australia squads.  The standout was Charlotte Caslick who won Gold with Australia under Samurai coach and player Tim Walsh

The club were also pleased when long term coach Nick Wakley was appointed to the Wales Ladies coaching team for 7s and 15s, Super Sevens Series winning coach James Bailey being appointed as the England Ladies 7s coach and former player Chris Cracknell took on the Fiji Ladies 7s team for Rio.

Samurai also continued identifying and developing young players in the Samurai Bulldogs team.  The youngsters had a great season winning at Maidenhead, Chester, Bury, 7s In The City and Harpenden with several players then given the opportunity to step up to Samurai International.
The team also gave coaching opportunities to young up and coming coaches including James Bailey, Frazer Harkness, Paul Archer and Chris Roberts.  They were also delighted to have several England 7s players who started in Bulldogs come back to help bring the next generation of 7s stars through.

 Season Highlights

We asked some of the staff involved with us in our 20th year for their season highlights:

"For me it was getting to coach the Samurai team at 7s in the City against Team GB, Wales and Barbados.  We were the only invitational team playing in the competition that included Team GB, England, Wales and France.  For us to beat Wales and to be competitive against the Team GB side that went on to win silver at the Olympics after only 24 hours preparation was a fantastic achievement!"

Nick Wakley, Coach, Samurai International RFC

"Despite the many highlights, in my opinion our best moment has to be winning the 2016 Super Sevens Series.  We were sitting in 3rd place in the table coming into the finale at Exeter Chiefs' Sandy Park. We had to win the 3rd and final leg against England 7s to take the Series and Win we did!"

Terry Sands, Founder, Samurai International RFC

 "The highlight of the year for me was the Samurai Alumni photo for our 20th Anniversary taken at the London leg of the WSS where we saw the number of players, coaches and nations that had been part of the Samurai pathway.  It showed me the high regard that Samurai held in by the Rugby 7s community worldwide.  Of course this was further reinforced by the number of Samurai men and women involved with their countries in the Rio Olympics."

Mike Friday, Chairman, Samurai International RFC

"I cannot believe the club is only twenty years old or that I have been involved for ten of them.  For me I have loved seeing our players and staff representing their countries at the Olympic Games in Rio and on the World Sevens Series.  Sometimes you do forget quite how many International players and coaches have been involved with Samurai!  

My most memorable moment was seeing the squad at the Safari 7s run out in the "Tembo" shirts in support of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.  The shirt was the idea of Terry Sands, Luke Crocker and myself after the visit to the orphanage in 2015 and incorporated the elephant mural from the orphanage wall. 

The cause is incredibly close to our hearts and to be able to use rugby and our club to raise awareness and funds for them was something very special."

Mark Dean, Operations Director, Samurai International RFC

"It was a real highlight for me to get to coach Samurai for the first time having played for them previously on several occasions.  Winning the Super Sevens Series at Sandy Park in Exeter and retaining our series title capped off an incredible summer!"

James Bailey, Coach, Samurai International

It hasn't been all plain sailing however and there have been some disappointments along the way including narrowly missing out on the Hong Kong 10s title which is the only major tournament to have so far alluded the Samurai.

"Worst moment has to be our Hong Kong 10’s defeat where we lost to the Penguins in the final minute of a 10-minute overtime period. We had lost 2 key players as they were called up to England 7s and started with only 13 men but the players put in an unbelievable effort with a passionate performance only to be pipped at the post! Sport can be cruel at times as we all know but we wouldn’t change it for the World"

Terry Sands, Founder, Samurai International

The other upset was in Amsterdam where an all Welsh Samurai team, replicating the very first Samurai team who won the trophy in 1996, failed to retain the Silver Pier trophy.

"It was disappointing not to win Amsterdam in our 20th year but I was delighted to take an  all Welsh side there again.  The team in 1996 included the likes of Martyn Williams, Neil Jenkins and Chris Wyatt so hopefully some of the youngsters we took this time will go on to have that sort of career as well!"

Nick Wakley, Coach, Samurai International

So all in all a good season for the club and a fine 20th anniversary celebration.  To help give you an idea of exactly what the club got up to in it's twentieth year take a look at the graphic below giving you our season in numbers and also a breakdown of the 22 tournaments we took part in.  See you next year for our 21st and the next chapter in the story of the best invitational rugby 7s team in the World.

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