Just as England Rugby 7s skipper Tom Mitchell was getting his head around the idea of fulfilling a childhood dream of competing at the Olympics this summer, he finds himself walking past the likes of Bryan Habana and Quade Cooper at HSBC Sevens World Series events.
Rugby will be breaking new ground this summer when 7s is included in the Olympic Games for the first time and it is an opportunity some of the world’s greatest players found too tempting to miss out on.
But while one of South African rugby’s true greats Habana and Australia’s most mercurial talents Cooper have swapped the XV-man game in favour of the shorter format in search of gold, Mitchell does not expect any of England’s Grand Slam winners to follow suit.
The 26-year-old, who was born in Cuckfield and a product of Worth School, said: “It has been awesome to see some of these guys walking around the hotels and involved in the same tournaments as you.
“It has also been interesting to see how they fit into their teams and also the demands of the game.
“More and more big names are coming into it and it is generating more interest. We are getting people who are XVs fans across to the sport which is brilliant.”
It has been awesome to see some of these guys walking around the hotels and involved in the same tournaments as youTom Mitchell
But he added: “I think the teams – not only the GB team – will be filled with guys who have a lot of 7s experience. I think that is an important aspect to the tournament.
“Yes there will be some teams who are bringing in XVs guys with varying amounts of experience but I am not sure who would be putting their hands up for the GB side outside of the England, Scotland and Wales sevens teams.
“So we will have to see how it works out but I would be very surprised if teams show up to the Olympics with teams full of guys who do not have a lot of experience.”
Some of those selected for this summer’s Olympic Games will quickly become household Olympic names alongside the likes of Jessica Ennis-Hill or Mo Farah and Mitchell is looking forward to seeing how ‘the greatest show on earth’ impacts the sport he loves.
Speaking at the Rosslyn Park HSBC National Schools Sevens, where he has previously competed in his teens, Mitchell said: “I think 7s rugby is as big as it has ever been. I think worldwide interest in the sport is growing, participation is growing and a lot of that is down to Olympics.
“The build-up to the Olympics is going to be massive and you can feel momentum gathering as we speak and it will be interesting to see how it grows post-Olympics.
“When I was growing up as a kid the dream was to play rugby for England or go to the Olympics as a sporty youngster. But as I got into rugby, you know the Olympics is not ever a goal because it is not an opportunity.
“Even now you have to check yourself; that what you are doing is set to be on the biggest sporting stage on the world. It is something very special and it will be great for not only 7s but rugby in general.
“It is a huge multi-sport event and there will be a lot of people who will be getting involved in the sport that haven’t been involved before or watched it before. Hopefully they can benefit from the great sport that we play.”
In Rugby Seven’s biggest year the next generation of rugby stars, inspired by the Rugby World Cup, from more than 650 teams descended on Rosslyn Park HSBC National Schools Sevens to start on their own journey and break new ground http://www.rpns7.co.uk/
Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.
Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be amongst the first to know what’s going on.
1 Make this website your homepage
2 Like our Facebook page at facebook.com/pages/Sport-Sussex
3 Follow us on Twitter @SportSussex
4 Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.
And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!