Interview: England Rugby Sevens' Marcus Watson

Sports Mole talks to England Rugby Sevens star Marcus Watson about the team's chances of winning gold in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games this month.

As one of the top teams on the IRB World Series circuit, England's rugby sevens side haven't quite fulfilled their potential at the Commonwealth Games.

Since the sport was introduced in 1998, England have only won a solitary silver medal, in Melbourne's 2006 Games, while four years ago in Delhi they agonisingly missed out by finishing fourth.

Marcus Watson is one of the men charged with improving that recent record for England having established himself as a key player since filling a role vacated by legendary playmaker Ben Gollings.

Marcus Watson in action during the England Sevens Squad Announcement for the Commonwealth Games on July 9, 2014 in London, England© Getty Images

This summer in Glasgow will be Watson's first taste of the Commonwealth Games, and the 23-year-old already has his sights set on winning gold.

"To be honest I think everyone that is going there to compete is going to be going for gold, and we'll be no different. We're obviously going there to win every game. It's a bit cliche but we've said we're just going to take it game by game and hopefully that will lead us towards a gold medal," he told Sports Mole.

Watson is no stranger to matters on the field having been a full-time England Rugby Sevens player for two years now, but he is looking forward to the different nature of the Commonwealth Games.

"I think when it comes to the actual tournament I'd imagine it won't be too different but I think it's just the general build-up and being in the athletes' village will be completely different," he said.

"It's something that I, being younger and always wanting to be a rugby player, never thought was possible to be a Commonwealth athlete so it's something I'm definitely looking forward to."

In all, there are eight players in the squad who will be making their Commonwealth Games debuts in Glasgow, but they need look no further than head coach Simon Amor for any advice about what to expect.

Amor was part of England's silver medal-winning side in Melbourne eight years ago, although Watson admits that he has picked up more from the four members of the squad who played in the 2010 Games than he has from the coach.

"The only thing he's really mentioned about the Commonwealth Games is just how big an event it is and how excited we should all be. He hasn't mentioned much about his own personal experiences. We've almost picked up more from some of the other boys that have played in the one four years ago," he added.

"We've spoken about it a little bit but I think our focus is obviously on the games that we'll be playing and making sure that we know the differences about the Commonwealth village and things like that. As far as the tournament goes I don't think it should be too different."

Marcus Watson of England scores a try in their Cup Quarter Final match against Samoa during round 5 of the IRB Rugby Sevens in Wellington on February 8, 2014© Getty Images

England find themselves in a group with arch-rivals Australia in what looks likely to be a two-horse race for top spot in Pool D, but Watson is not getting hung up on beating the Wallabies in their final game of the opening day.

"Day one is always just about getting into day two. Hopefully we'll improve each game, so the first two games we'd look to improve on and then the third game hopefully we'd do the same. We'd obviously like to win against Australia, but our main focus will be just taking it game by game and improving and giving ourselves a good quarter-final place in day two," he said.

Those opening two games see England come up against Sri Lanka and Uganda, two teams that aren't on the World Series circuit, and Watson is confident of beating the minnows despite the squad not knowing much about them.

"To be honest, they're unknown so we have no idea. We've just got to focus on ourselves really instead of them, and hopefully that will pull us through. We know very little about them and I'm sure they could be two good teams, but as long as we play our best I think we could beat anyone," Watson said.

Should, as expected, England progress through the first day as one of the top two teams in the group then they will compete in the cup alongside some of the other biggest names in rugby sevens.

The team to beat in Glasgow will be New Zealand, who have won every single gold medal and are yet to lose a match at the Commonwealth Games since the sport was introduced 16 years ago in Malaysia.

However, England did topple the mighty All Blacks in the pool stages of the London Sevens in May, and Watson is confident that his side could repeat the feat should they come up against the reigning IRB World Series and World Cup champions in Glasgow.

"I think any team is beatable. I think we've proven that this year and some other teams have as well by beating them and I definitely think it is possible. They're not going to be an easy team to beat, but I'd say the same about us, South Africa and some of the other top teams. So they are beatable, but it's always a challenge playing New Zealand," he added.

"I think we've learned from our losses to them and our wins. We'll definitely look on our last game against them and see what they did differently and what we did well and try to do the same."

Marcus Watson of England scores a try against Kenya during the IRB Glasgow Sevens - Day Two at Scotstoun Stadium on May 4 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland© Getty Images

Another team usually amongst the medals are Fiji, who will not have a team at this year's Games due to political issues seeing them banned from the Commonwealth. They were eventually re-instated in time to take part in the Games, although it came too late for their national sport - rugby sevens - to have a team entered.

Their absence is undoubtedly a blow to neutrals wanting to watch free-flowing, entertaining rugby, but Watson does not believe that England will be too affected by the Pacific Islanders not being there.

"We'll play anyone that is in front of us and Fiji are a good side, so not having them there potentially means that there is one less good team out of the top five. But, as far as we're concerned, I don't think that should make much of a difference for how we prepare and our goals going into it," he said.

Fiji finished third behind New Zealand and South Africa in the World Series last season, and Watson is expecting the usual suspects to battle it out for the gold medal in Glasgow.

"I think the top five teams [will be contenders]. Obviously Fiji aren't included, but it is one of those one-off tournaments that anyone is likely to win. I'd say the top five would probably be favourites going in, so South Africa won't be too easy, us and Australia," he added.

England could potentially hold a slight advantage over their fellow contenders given that the event is taking place so close to home, and Watson believes that the location could be key.

"I'd definitely say [it's an advantage]. It's quite nice that it is so easy for our family and friends to come over. Hopefully we'll get quite a bit of home support, which definitely helps as well, so I think that is a good thing that it's so close," Watson said.

Can England win gold? You can follow the Commonwealth Games rugby sevens tournament with Sports Mole on July 26-27.

Who will win the Rugby Sevens gold at the Commonwealth Games?

New Zealand
South Africa
New Zealand
South Africa
Head coach Simon Amor of England looks on during the quarter final match between England and Samoa at Westpac Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Wellington, New Zealand
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