England pick Junior champ Clifford for Sevens
England's 2013 IRB Junior World Championship-winning captain, Jack Clifford, is one of four newcomers named in Simon Amor's England Sevens squad for the next two rounds of the HSBC Sevens World Series in Tokyo and Hong Kong.
Harlequins number 8 Clifford led England to a first Junior World Championship title last year and joins another former Under 20 captain in the squad in Alex Gray.
In making his World Series debut he joins fellow newcomers Sam Stanley (Saracens, nephew of New Zealand's Rugby World Cup-winner Joe), Sam Blanchet (Exeter Chiefs) and Jack Walsh (Blackheath).
All four appeared alongside England’s contracted Sevens players on Sunday as they ran out 31-17 winners in an exhibition match against Wales at Twickenham Stadium.
Tom Mitchell leads the team to Tokyo (March 22-23) and Hong Kong (March 28-30), with England currently sitting fourth in the overall standings.
Amor: Great environment to progress
“This is a great environment in which a player like Jack Clifford can progress and we’re delighted that Harlequins have allowed him to join us for these two tournaments to help further his development," said head coach Simon Amor, whose predecessor Ben Ryan installed the current squad of centrally contracted Sevens players.
This is the first squad selection Amor has made which shows a clear intent to work once again with England's leading clubs in using Sevens to develop the country's most promising young players for the 15-a-side game.
“Sam Stanley, Jack Walsh and Sam Blanchet have all trained with us recently and again we’re grateful to their clubs for giving them the opportunity with us for the next two legs of the HSBC Sevens World Series," added Amor, whose side faces Scotland, Spain and Australia in Pool D on day one in Tokyo.
“They’re joining an experienced group of players heading for Tokyo and Hong Kong and everyone in the camp has worked hard to keep driving up standards going into two big tournaments.
"We did reasonably well last time out in finishing fourth in Wellington but we have to keep raising the bar and performing consistently well in the remaining tournaments.”
Injured quartet John Brake, Sam Edgerley, Mike Ellery and Jeff Williams are among the contracted players currently ruled out.
England Sevens: Dan Bibby, Sam Blanchet, Phil Burgess, Jack Clifford, Alex Gray, Tom Mitchell (Captain), Dan Norton, Tom Powell, James Rodwell, Sam Stanley, Jack Walsh, Marcus Watson
Clifford nominated for Junior Player of Year 2013