Tonight’s Singha Premiership Rugby 7s is set to be an exciting evening of rugby at Franklin’s Gardens as Gloucester, Northampton Saints, Harlequins, and Saracens take to the field in Group C.
We’ve picked out a couple of players from each side who we think could be worth you keeping an eye on. The action all starts live on BT Sport from 19.00.
Mat Protheroe is undoubtedly one of the most exciting young players in Britain and Ireland. Already there is a tussle for him between England and Wales, and no wonder, the young fly half/full back possesses lightening speed and a keen eye for a gap that is terrifying in fifteens, let alone 7s.
He appeared this year for England U20 at both fly half and full back in the U20 6 Nations, but missed the successful U20 World Championships having been deemed ineligible. Protheroe only moved to England for 6th form, where he attended Hartpury College.
Harry Randall, like Protheroe, is a Hartpury College product who is eligible for both England and Wales. The diminutive scrum half has had a stunning season, first winning the AASE title with Hartpury, before being capped by England U18, and then receiving a call up to the U20 side for the U20 World Championships.
Do not be deceived by Randall’s small frame, the man is tough as old teak despite only being a month out of school, and with rapid acceleration, he is unlikely to be stopped if he spots a gap.
Gabriel Ibitoye was the England U18 captain this year, and has played for them in the centres, on the wing, and at full back, showing just what a variety of skills the Trinity School leaver has.
He appeared in this tournament last year as a schoolboy and even appeared in the A League for Quins last season too, a sign of just how much faith they have in this man. Ibitoye is a man that Harlequins fans are going to enjoy watching for many years to come.
Henry Cheeseman is, in some ways, a bit of a veteran on this list; he is just starting his third year as a professional player. The former Whitgift skipper joined Harlequins from school as a number eight, but has spent a fair bit of time on the wing since, including a number of 1st XV appearances last season.
That should tell you a little bit about why Cheeseman is on this list, he has a great all round skillset and combines the pace of an outside back with the power of a back row forward. As a schoolboy he was one of the two or three best sevens players in the country, and the suspicion still is that an England 7s call up cannot be out of the question.
Lewis Ludlum also has a fair bit of Academy experience under his belt now, he appeared in last year’s Singha 7s too, and was a key player for England U20 in their run to the 2015 World Championship final.
The former St Joseph’s College skipper is a type of back row player that England have been crying out for, he loves a scrap for the ball on the deck. His turnover work could be crucial for Saints if they want to win this group on their own turf.
James Grayson played fly half for England U18 this year, and like his father, Paul, James has an incredibly neat and tidy approach to his play at fly half.
The Moulton College leaver has more than just that though and can unpick defences brilliantly, as he showed for school, academy, and country last year. With the gas of the likes of Tom Collins and Howard Packman outside him, Grayson’s ability to manipulate the defence will surely reap rewards.
Tom Whiteley is one of the best school 7s players this writer has seen. The former Millfield star won player of the tournament at the HSBC Rosslyn Park National School 7s in 2014 as Millfield won, securing a contract at Saracens in the process.
This is his third Singha 7s outing, and he has starred in the previous two. Whiteley possesses outrageously quick feet and an acceleration that few can match, plus a real understanding of how to play 7s. If you are watching this evening, make sure you always have one eye on the 20 year old scrum half.
Ali Crossdale joined Saracens this summer from Newcastle Falcons after finishing his studies at Sedbergh School. The fly half/full back has been one of the top school players in the country for a couple of years, and was exceptional for England U18 too in 2014/15.
Unfortunately for him, an injury ruled him out of further England U18 caps this year, and the Singha 7s will in fact be his first run out of 2016. That should be more of a worry for his opponents that himself though, as it will only make him more determined to have a good run out, and when Crossdale has the ball in his hands, magical things happen.
So there are our players to watch this evening, two from each of the four clubs. Which players are you particularly looking forward to watching this evening? Get in touch on Twitter and Facebook to let us know!
You can see the full squad lists here, Singha Premiership 7s squads, and you can watch all the action live on BT Sport form 18.45.