A New Year and a new, and unexpected, opportunity has come the way of the German men’s sevens team.
New Zealand’s withdrawal from the next two rounds of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series has opened the door for Germany to compete in Malaga and Seville.
For a team that has only ever played in seven previous World Series tournaments, the last two coming in Canada in September, the experience will be invaluable ahead of their bid to make the line-up for Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022, via the Rugby Europe Men’s Sevens Championship.
Germany find themselves in Pool B in Malaga along with Australia, Ireland and Japan, who have recently appointed McGrath’s long-time friend Simon Amor as technical director.
“I was talking to Simon Amor over Christmas before all this happened, about his new venture in Japan, and I didn’t think we’d be coming across one another so soon.
“We worked at England together, I coached when he was captain and I was also his assistant, so we go back a long way and he is one of my closest friends in rugby.
“He was a great player and a very intelligent man; it was no surprise that he’s made such a success of coaching.”
It took Germany a while to get into their stride in the Vancouver tournament but they finished with consecutive wins against Chile, Mexico and Jamaica to head to Edmonton in good shape.
The forward momentum continued with wins over Great Britain and USA, the highlights of a fifth-place finish.
For a team that hadn’t played in the World Series in 12 years before the Canadian double header, they can be proud of what they achieved over the fortnight.
“It is like anything when you step into something new, we got caught out by the speed of everything and the first two games, where we got well beaten, passed us by. But once we got into the rhythm the players did well and we justified our invitation.
“We know it was a watered down version of what the World Series is, but you can only do what you can when you play in those games.
“It was a big deal for the players, and I think they were a bit awestruck to begin with but once they settled in, it was good.
“We beat USA and Great Britain which, for me personally, was fantastic. It (Edmonton) was a good tournament for us.”
After a good performance in the Safari Sevens, McGrath gave his part-time players a well-deserved break. This was cut short though when news of their invitation to play in Spain came through.
Twin qualification goal
“Because it is such a late invitation, we have lost a couple of players who can’t get time off work. So it has not come at the best time for us but we’ll just try to make the best of it and we’d much rather be there than missing out.
“We’ll be the huge underdogs in Malaga but Japan are not in the best of form at the moment.
“Ireland have played on the qualifier series for years and are a tier-one nation and things have moved forward for them, but we’ll give them a game.
“As for Australia, you’ve got to meet one of the big dogs at some point so that’ll be a tough one.”
McGrath acknowledges that a good performance in Spain will set them up nicely for the rest of the year.
“The whole year is around qualifying for the World Series and qualifying for the World Cup. If we can get those two things, it will be an unbelievable year for us.”