Turner: Best England Sevens squad ever
The first of nine rounds on the 2012/13 Series takes place at Skilled Park on 13-14 October and England Sevens' Mat Turner is happy to be a marked man going into the Gold Coast Sevens.
The 24-year-old was the leading try-scorer on the 2011/12 Series touching down 38 times and finishing one try ahead of teammate Dan Norton, and was also one of three nominees for the IRB Sevens Player of the Year, won by New Zealand's Tomasi Cama.
England and Turner have been in camp in Hong Kong before traveling to the Gold Coast and Turner argues that any extra attention coming his way will simply open up more space for the other players in an England squad he believes is their best ever.
“Last year was my first proper year cementing a starting spot and it gave me an opportunity to build performances one after the other,” said Turner.
“It was my best year so far and that’s a tribute to Ben Ryan changing the game plan to work for our individual strengths.
“I want to be player of the year this year. It was one of my goals last year and I was just short. Top try-scorer was never a goal but somehow the boys put me in the right place at the right time and I managed to beat Dan Norton by one. I’m sure he’ll beat me by two this year to show he’s the better try-scorer.
2011/12 top try scorer
“Do I worry about pressure? I hope people look at me and say ‘what’s he going to produce?’ It’s more of a challenge and if they start marking me up more they’ll give our other guys more room. And you can’t give any of our guys half a yard.”
England start the 2012/13 series with 10 of their 12-man squad having lifted a Cup title, most recently in Dubai last December.
Added to that stability, Turner believes the squad are in better physical shape than ever for the punishing tournament format which sees them play six high-intensity matches in two days.
“This is the best squad we’ve had," added Turner.
"I came in late into pre-season and I was shocked at the pace the guys were running at, their physicality and the condition they were in.
"It’s a tribute to the coaching staff that we’re in such great shape. If you watched a video of us training and compared it to a year ago, you’d think last year’s team was a semi-pro one. There’s been a huge leap.
“Last year we’d get to day two a bit bumped and bruised but now we’re the fittest we’ve ever been. Dan Norton broke the England fitness testing records and it didn’t even look like he was trying that hard. He just cruised. It was scary to watch him just glide along.
“That’s going to make a difference in the way we play. Everyone knows we’ve got wheels. Now we can keep running and running and when there’s 13 minutes 50 seconds on the clock we can still go 100metres and score a try.”
England begin their campaign in Pool C alongside Samoa, Kenya and Spain.