Colin Hillman will pack his bags and head for the Far East again this weekend when he leads the Welsh Sevens squad into action in the next leg of the IRB World Sevens Sereis.
Acknowledged as one of the greatest sevens players of his generation and these days he is doing his best, the former Bridgend and South Wales Police hooker has already taken Wales to Dubai, Durban, Santiago, Mar del
Plata, Brisbane and Wellington this season.
Next week the squad will head to Beijing and Hong Kong. In April, it will be Singapore and Kuala Lumpur and in May and June the final two rounds will be staged at Twickenham and the Millennium Stadium.
Not that there will be much time for a break. Once the 11 tournament series
is over, Hillman will be planning for the Commonwealth Games in Manchester.
"It is incredibly challenging, but it is a great experience. The WRU have
decided that the sevens team should be used as a developmental stepping-
stone for younger players and I like to think I've been able to help some
of them to improve their skills," said Hillman.
"It can be a bit frustrating not having the same group of players for each
tournament, but we've got a richer pool of talent to choose from now. I'm
hoping to be able to select the best possible side to take to the
"That promises to be a huge competition and the final is already a sell out. Sevens has always been a great spectator event, but these days the
game is even more exciting than ever.
"The stop, start, let's try and work a gap style of sevens that I used to
play in Wales in the eighties is exactly that - a thing of the past.
Nowadays the players look for contact and it is an incredibly physical
"Sevens rugby has almost become a different sport and only the fittest,
strongest and quickest survive. It's all about keeping the ball alive,
surviving the big hits and creating offside lines.
"Last year we were ranked eighth in the tournament with 16 points. This season we have reached the same number of points in half as many tournaments.
"Everyone has been on to me about the heavy defeat we suffered against New
Zealand in the quarter-finals of our last tournament, but what everyone
failed to recognise was that we beat Australia 19-14 in our next game.
"There is a fine line between development and demoralisation, but I don't think there was anything we could have done to have stopped New Zealand in the form they were in. What pleased me, though, was the way the team
battled back against Australia.
"The other nations are very supportive of our eforts and we have struck up
a good rapport with the New Zealanders. We often train with them and play
conditioned games against them - if you want to be the best then you have to
play against the best."
Hillman, and the team manager John Ryan, get the chance to pick players who are not involved in the senior Wales squad, Wales A or Wales Under 21.
That's why they have pitched their selection at younger players.
But when it comes to the final two rounds of the IRB World Series, and the
Commonwealth Games, Hillman is hoping for a slightly mroe rleaxed attitude
from the three senior squads.
"It would be great to have players like Rob Howley, Iestyn Harris, Craig
Morgan, Dafydd James, Martyn Williams and Gareth Thomas available for
selection," said Hillman.
"I'm sure the Welsh public would love to see them playing at the Millennium
Stadium and then representing Wales in Manchester. And if you add some of our more seasoned sevens campaingers, like Paul Jones, Jason Forster, Gareth Baber, Jamie Ringer, Will Thomas, Sean James and Robin Sowden-Taylor, I think
we would have a highly competitive squad."
IRB World Sevens Series Dates
Round 6: Beijing, China (16/17 March)
Round 7: Hong Kong (22/24 March)
Round 8: Singapore (20/21 April)
Round 9: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (27/28 April)
Round 10: London (24/25 May)
Round 11: Cardiff (31 May/1 June)
Commonwealth Games (Manchester)
Nearly 40 players were involved in the first Wales Under 18 training session of the season. WRU National Performance Manager Gethin Watts is excited at the potential shown by the group and expects the Regional Under 18 Championship to hone their skills even further.