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Gold Coast local Gollings excited by Commonwealth Games
As rugby sevens prepares to take to the Commonwealth Games stage right on his doorstep, Gold Coast resident Ben Gollings predicts a brilliant few days of competition lay ahead.
All-time HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series record points scorer Ben Gollings believes the rugby sevens competitions at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games will be the biggest and best yet.
Olympic inclusion and the ever-increasing competitiveness of the men's and women's series have elevated the sport to new heights since Gollings won silver with England the last time the Commonwealth Games were held on Australian soil, in Melbourne some 12 years ago, and the 37-year-old cannot wait to see the action unfold inside the Robina Stadium on 13-15 April.
“I am very excited about the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games,” said Gollings, who is currently in an advisory role with Singapore Rugby supporting both their men’s and women’s sevens programmes.
“I live here so it’s great to be in the hometown watching it unfold. Having played in 2006 in Melbourne, which was a fantastic competition, these Games are going to be even bigger.”
Recalling his own experiences, Gollings looks back fondly on the 2006 Commonwealth Games where he starred alongside the likes of current England scrum-half Danny Care.
“Winning silver in Melbourne was awesome. There were some very strong sides and we just missed out on the gold to New Zealand having beaten Fiji, Samoa, Australia along the way.
“The stadium and crowd were amazing. The event was very special, and I have a lot of great memories from it. I wish I was still playing for Gold Coast 2018.”
Rugby sevens enjoyed a brilliant debut at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur and the sport has not looked back since.
“The Games are very important, it played a big part in getting sevens to become an Olympic sport and it offers another great competition every four years," Gollings stressed.
“Sevens now has an Olympics, World Cup and Commonwealth Games - you can’t beat that. It offers the players a great opportunity to experience and be a part of a big sporting event.
“All the top sevens nations are there so it makes it very competitive and is often the showcase event at every Games.”
Prior to his current role with Singapore, Gollings enjoyed a spell as head coach of the Sri Lanka sevens national team. And he will be interested to see how they and Malaysia, Asia’s other representatives, fare on the Gold Coast.
In 42 matches at this level, Malaysia and Sri Lanka have only won six games between them. Sri Lanka's two wins came at Glasgow 2014 but Malaysia suffered a whitewash. Nevertheless, Gollings is confident both teams will put up a good showing.
“I remember playing Sri Lanka in 2006 for England,” said Gollings.
“Having coached them since, I know they have a lot of talent there. It will be tough for them as most of the sides compete regularly on the world series, but Sri Lanka can cause an upset. With the way that the draw has fallen this year teams should not take them lightly.
“They have grown and grown and stepped up in terms of their fitness and conditioning which is a very important side of the game. That allows them to be more competitive. They also understand the game better and are tactically more astute.”
Malaysia once caused one of the biggest upsets in Commonwealth Games history when they beat a larger and more experienced Kenyan team 19-5 on home soil at the inaugural tournament in 1998, and Gollings is looking forward to seeing them fly the flag for Asia too.
“Malaysia played very well in the SEA (South East Asia) Games, winning gold, and to get this type of experience is invaluable for them. The players will grow through this and will be able to rub shoulders with the big guns. It’s a chance in a lifetime experience.
“It is an exciting time for Asia and this provides very good exposure," he continued. "Asia has a lot to offer the game of rugby and to see it have this exposure helps sell the sport and get people activated to play it.
“Places like China are a sleeping giant, Japan are already showing their potential and other Asian countries are on the up. There is a thriving rugby community, and this will only help its growth. I am happy for Asian rugby.”