Wales head coach Richie Pugh has named Ospreys pair Ben Cambriani and Reuben Morgan-Williams in his squad for the penultimate leg of the World Rugby Sevens Series in London this weekend.
“The boys understand that even though it’s the end of the season, we’ve got so much to fight for,” says Pugh, whose young team currently lies in 14th position with London and Paris the final tournaments of 2018/19. “We can’t take our foot off the gas. We’re fighting for survival, and we can’t afford to lose core status. The boys recognise how much these final two weekends mean.”
Despite the youthful nature of the squad this season, there have been some stunning victories amongst the struggles – not least the recent wins against USA and England, ranked first and fifth respectively. Pugh, who is assisted by Cardiff Blues’ Richie Rees at Twickenham this weekend, says: “We can reflect on the improvements shown to pick off wins against those two sides, and the manner in which we did so was huge for this group, but the next stage is nailing the games after those performances: the ones what we could and should be winning.
“It has been a tough season, both physically and mentally. We’re fighting for every game and every point on the series. It does take its toll, so it was important that we switched off during the break we’ve just had, but now we’re back in and fresh for the challenge ahead.”
That challenge is a pool including Australia, USA and Spain – regular opponents for Wales in this season’s tournament. After beating runaway series leaders USA in Hong Kong, Pugh believes his players “know they can compete with the best now. It’s achieving a level of consistency. Not just raising yourself to play the best in what is potentially a no-pressure game, but winning those games that we need to be winning.”
With such a large number of Wales’ players at the fledgling stage of their careers, the steep learning curve of elite sevens has been a crucial stage of their development. “They understand the game now,” says their coach. “Their conditioning levels are vastly improved. We’re not having to manage them for seven minutes of a game: they can last for 14 minutes now. It makes a big difference to the group.”
Core Players: Luke Treharne (c), Owen Jenkins, Ethan Davies, Cai Devine, Afon Bagshaw, Joe Jenkins Dragons: Joe Goodchild, George Gasson Cardiff Blues: Cameron Lewis, Dafydd Smith Ospreys: Reuben Morgan-Williams, Ben Cambriani Scarlets: Tom Rogers, Morgan Williams.