England Sevens captain, Ben Gollings, today announced that he will be stepping away from the International Sevens circuit, having not been awarded a new contract with England.

Gollings is the Sevens all-time record points-scorer with 2,652 in 70 tournaments, surpassing Fiji’s Waisale Serevi, who amassed 1,310. He was also the top points-scorer in the HSBC Sevens World Series in 2009-10 with 332, running in 26 tries and landing 101 conversions and is jointly the highest capped player in the IRB Sevens Series.Gollings’ International Sevens career has spanned over a decade, having made his debut in the 1999 IRB Sevens Series in Paris at the age of 19. During this time he has played in three Commonwealth Games and two Sevens World Cups, reaching the Final in 2005 in Hong Kong and the Quarter-Final in 2009 in Dubai. He scored a try and conversion to help England to their record fourth consecutive Hong Kong victory in 2006 and three years later converted a try by Isoa Damudamu to enable England to beat hosts New Zealand 19-17 and win the Wellington tournament for the first time.Last December Gollings led England to a 29-21 victory over reigning Series Champions Samoa in Dubai and to the top of the leader board, ahead of New Zealand. England went into the final two tournaments of the HSBC Sevens World Series with a chance to win their first-ever world title, but picked up no series points in the London Sevens and only six in the final round of the tournament in the Edinburgh Sevens to allow New Zealand to win their 9th title.Of his move Ben said: “It was really disappointing not to be offered a new contract with the England Sevens team as it has been a hugely enjoyable part of my life for so many years. I count myself very lucky to have had the opportunity to play the game I love as a profession and I’d like to thank the supporters for the way they’ve treated me during my time on the Sevens circuit. Sevens has some of the best fans you could wish to play in front of and they create awesome atmospheres all around the world.

“The influence and popularity of Sevens today is unrecognisable from the game I started playing in 1999. It’s growing so quickly and I have been extremely proud to have been a part of the England set-up for so long.

“I will have so many fond memories of my time touring and playing. On a personal note, running out with my two young sons, Woody and Rocco, at Twickenham in the 2010 Quarter-Final last year was a special moment. Winning the 2006 Hong Kong Sevens is one of my favourite career memories and leading England to a win in Dubai last year was a particular highlight because it was a significant stepping stone for the team which propelled us forward. I can’t praise the boys enough for their work ethic and what they’ve achieved over the last two to three years. Despite the disappointing end to the season, I can only see England going from strength to strength and it will be extremely hard not to be a part of that exciting future.

“It is a shame I won’t be able to fulfil my ambition of cracking the 3000 points barrier or becoming all-time top try scorer, but I’ve been fortunate to enjoy as much as I have.

“It was a bit of a shock not to be given a new contract and it will take a few months to get my head around no longer being part of the England Sevens squad, but I understand their decision to look to younger players to take them forward and I wish the team and the boys the best of luck and have every faith in them that they can win the 2013 Rugby Sevens World Cup in Moscow.”

England Sevens head coach, Ben Ryan, said: “These decisions are never taken lightly and while we understand Ben’s disappointment we felt that it was one that needed to be made to move the squad and our game forward over the coming seasons.

“It doesn’t detract in any way from the terrific service Ben has given England over more than a decade at the highest level. His professionalism has set a high standard to match for all those who have trained and played alongside him.

“Ben was there from Day One in 1999 when the World Sevens Series began and although he had spells with Newcastle and Quins and overseas he kept on returning because of his love of the sevens game and the game has a lot of affection for him too.

“He’s got a remarkable points scoring record and that will probably stand for a decade or more as a tribute to him. His name is synonymous with sevens and I’m sure he will go on and enjoy an equally successful post-sevens career.”

World renowned broadcaster and IRB Sevens World Series lead commentator, Nigel Starmer-Smith, paid this tribute the England Sevens captain: “Ben is the Serevi or the Eric Rush of England Sevens. He’s truly world class and has been outstanding for England. He’s been the cornerstone of their squad for years. Ben’s a player who is made for Sevens and there aren’t many like him about. Despite playing for over a decade he wasn’t on the wane. Over the last three years he’s probably played better than he did in the early years. Ben lifted himself to new fitness levels and had an absolutely brilliant season two years ago. He’s the greatest Sevens player England have produced by a mile.

“Ben has been associated with almost every England Sevens triumph, since their first Cup title in Hong Kong in 2002. His world-record points tally – over 2600 points – is twice as many as his nearest challenger in the history of the game- Waisale Serevi. But that statistic doesn’t truly reflect his overall Sevens’ talents: his outstanding drop-goal kicking ability at restarts as well as conversions; his pace and acceleration off the mark; his handling skills and elusiveness and most of all his ‘Sevens’ brain’- an uncanny awareness and vision in the heat of the contest.

“I guess I, like so many, would have wished to see him lead England to the next World Cup Sevens, and maybe even, with some luck and maintained fitness, the inauguration of the Sevens in the Olympics of 2016. If that is not to be , then we shall treasure so many memories of one of a very select few maestros of the Sevens game, a genial man of high standards, who played such a part in putting England proudly into the top echelon of the Sevens’ world scene.”

Gollings made 82 Premiership appearances between 1999-2005, playing for Harlequins (1999-2003), Newcastle Falcons (2003-04) and Worcester Warriors (2004). He also enjoyed a season in Japan representing the Toyota Shokki before moving to Australia to appear for Gold Coast Breakers.

At this stage Gollings is undecided on his next steps: “I’m 31 and as fit as I’ve ever been so feel I have a few more years’ rugby in me. I haven’t yet decided what path to follow next. I’ll have some time out and assess my options in England and also abroad.”

20 June 2011, 4:28 pm
By Melissa Platt