England’s Dan Norton says ‘historic’ Hong Kong Sevens is a special tournament

When England take the field in the HSBC Sevens this weekend, Dan Norton will be aiming to nose ahead of Kenya’s Collins Injera in the all-time try-scoring charts.

The pair have each scored 244 tries for their respective countries, and Norton will be hoping to pile more on this week in a bid to help his team chase down series leaders South Africa.

Though Norton is more eager to talk about the team, the 29-year-old said he is proud to look back on his five-pointers for England.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Norton told Sky Sports. “I’ve been playing for quite a few years now.

“It is pretty special to stop and see how high up I am in the charts. I never really thought when I first started playing with Ben Gollings back in 2009 that I’d ever be anywhere near these heights.

“It is a lot to take in and remember how far I’ve come over the years in the Sevens.”

The Gloucester-born flyer paid credit to his team-mates for helping him over the whitewash.

“It’s a by-product of being one of the fast guys and the finishers; you need to be able to score those tries.

“The guys are doing an amazing job inside, creating space for us quick guys out wide and that’s what we’re there to do – we’re there to finish off tries.

“We’ve been lucky enough to score some tries and create some amazing memories throughout the year so far, hopefully we can continue doing that for the next four tournaments.”

The next tournament starts on Friday, and it’s the iconic Hong Kong Sevens – one of Norton’s personal favourites on the calendar.

“Hong Kong is pretty special, there’s nowhere else really like it,” said Norton. “The city shuts down, and people come from all over to watch.

“It’s a special place for Sevens, everybody’s knows about the history and legacy of Hong Kong. It’s always been a nice one to be a part of, we get amazing support here.”

In a golden period between 2002 and 2006 England claimed four Hong Kong titles in five years, but the last win in the sequence – with current coach Simon Amor a player in those days – represents England’s most recent success there.

For Norton, who made his debut in 2009 and has been a runner-up in the tournament in previous years, Hong Kong is a box he desperately wants to tick.

“We’ve been in a few finals and Simon won it back in the day, but we haven’t crossed the line yet with a win here, which would be an amazing way to cap off a great season.

“But we know it’s going to be a very competitive tournament – everyone wants to win it.”

Norton says Hong Kong is one of the legs of the series he’d like to attend as a fan after retiring, but admits he would struggle with the transition.

“I’d like to think I’d be out here enjoying myself, but I don’t think I’d last a long three days in the stands – it takes a lot of dedication and a healthy wallet!

“It would be really nice to come back to places like here and Dubai, and just enjoy the Sevens for the amazing spectacle it is.”

England are currently second in the Seven World Series standings after claiming two of the six tournaments and appearing in four finals, which Norton credits to consistency in selection.

“We’ve got an amazing balance within the squad; I think we’re the only team to have been able to pick the same 12 players for the last four or five tournaments.”

Norton says another contributing factor to the success is the management of the players, who are given the chance to get away from the game off the field and enjoy the lifestyle afforded by the sport.

“For us it’s about switching on for training, but at the same time it’s having that time to switch off because you can’t be ‘on’ the whole time,” he said.

“So we get the opportunity in the afternoons, evenings, and days off to spend time together as a team or individually and explore some of these cool cities.”

When Norton started out on the Sevens scene it was vastly different to how it is today, with players mostly figuring in part-time roles on the circuit.

In the modern game the England players have specialised in the short format, which the former England Under 20 winger says has lifted the level of the competition.

Norton said: “Sevens as a whole has changed drastically over the years. Now it’s about spending a lot more time doing specialist Sevens stuff, which has had an amazing effect on the game and how it’s grown. It’s nice to have been a part of that long journey.”

But he is quick to point out that one thing hasn’t changed – the incredibly tough demands on a player’s body, in particular the lungs.

He said: “It hurts as much as ever, it never gets any easier. Even if you’re on the field for two minutes, you’re coughing up and your whole world turns upside down because you can’t see very well!”

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