HSBC World Rugby Sevens: Tom Mitchell on Dan Norton & Commonwealth Games

England won their last tournament in Vancouver
Tom Mitchell captained England to victory in the last World Sevens Series round in Vancouver

After only two weeks sleeping in our own beds, we are on the road again and this week find ourselves in the most famous sevens city in the world, Hong Kong.

Given the short turnaround, memories of the last tournament in Vancouver, Canada remain fresh in the memory.

Lifting the trophy and claiming our second win of this World Rugby Sevens Series was the perfect end to an outstanding second day of rugby for us. However, it was a day that took a lot out of us.

Still bruised and battered from the Las Vegas tournament the previous weekend, we took the field in Vancouver physically and emotionally drained.

As we went through the six games the boys displayed various coping mechanisms, but sometimes humour is what gets you through.

What really took us to the top spot that weekend was the collective trust in each other to give everything we had. That proved to be enough that day to beat New Zealand, Fiji and South Africa - the other three teams in the top four.

In front of an enthusiastic crowd who created a superb atmosphere under the roof in BC Place, I had an astounding sense of pride in the squad as I lifted the plant pot/lampshade-style trophy.

Countdown to the 2018 Commonwealth Games

Tuesday this week marked the start of the one-year countdown to the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

For most of us in this current England team, the 21st edition of the games is one we are targeting. And the experience I gained from competing in Glasgow in 2014 was of huge benefit when I was at the Rio Olympics last year with Team GB.

The England sevens team had the chance to meet Sir Bradley Wiggins
Sir Bradley Wiggins met the England sevens team during the 2014 Commonwealth Games

The multi-sport environment is a very different one to the regular sevens series and one I find extremely exciting. Staying in the athletes' village in Glasgow meant I got to meet world-class athletes from other sports, some of whom are also celebrities.

A sit-down chat with [Britain's five-time Olympic champion] Sir Bradley Wiggins and having our shirts presented by [double Olympic champion] Dame Kelly Holmes were definitely memorable highlights.

Alongside that I remember sitting on a bench after the official village welcome ceremony, which happened to fall on my birthday. My team-mates prompted the whole of Team England to join them in singing happy birthday to me.

Despite the embarrassment it was a nice moment which also summed up what it meant to be part of a team that was bigger than just our squad of 12.

While results were not what we wanted [and my personal experience was soured by a broken foot], the Commonwealth Games was a highlight of my career so far and I look forward to the opportunity to try and add to that next year in Australia.

Record breaker for Norton

This weekend in Hong Kong is a record-breaking one for Dan Norton who is now top of the World Series' all-time sevens try scorers.

His tally now stands at 245, one more than Kenya's Collins Injera, who previously held the record (and could yet take it back before Sunday). However, his ability to score lots of tries is only a small part of why we like Norton so much. He is not big-headed about his try record. I mean that figuratively and literally - he has a small head.

Dan Norton and Tom Mitchell
Dan Norton (left) set the new all-time try scoring record in the World Sevens Series on Friday

Although he has never been asked to, Norts assumes the role of the class clown in our group. His ability to conjure witty comebacks to players and coaches alike is amusing, if sometimes inappropriate at times.

His knack for team banter must have been learned in the pubs of Gloucester where he spent his youth, picking up pins in the bowling alley for his dad and his mates. Perhaps dodging the balls coming down the lane was how he developed his ability to beat defenders.

The 'death zone'

As with all tournaments, a large portion of any success is down to the preparation.

In order to prepare for the heat and humidity of Hong Kong and Singapore [which follows next weekend], we have been tagging on 20-minute sauna sessions at the end of training and fitness. Sometimes these little innovations make the difference.

However, a staple of our training schedule, which is as old school as it gets, is hard work. And more specifically, the hardest session of our week, 'death zone'.

The title is borrowed from a term climbers use to describe the altitude at which you are most challenged, the point at which it becomes near-impossible to perform simple tasks.

During our time at the 'death zone' we try to make decisions and perform our skills in game situations while under extreme fatigue. During these sessions our heart rates will be about 85% of maximum for approximately 85% of the session.

For us that means operating at about 165bpm for periods of up to two-three minutes which can reflect some of the longest passages of ball in play during a world series match.

In a game this might be punctuated by only 30 seconds of rest time before play restarts. This hard work and attention to detail is essential to compete at the top of world sevens.

The same rules apply this weekend at the 42nd Hong Kong 7s and with the city almost shutting down for three days as it goes sevens crazy, the tournament promises to be as extraordinary and as gripping as ever before.

Watch: Tom's video diary

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