The most prolific point scorer in the history of the World Sevens Series will return to the playing fields of the Dubai Rugby Sevens this month.
Ben Gollings, whose 2,652-point haul in his international career is more than 600 more than the next best, will turn out for Christina Noble Children’s Foundation in the International Vets 10s event.
While Gollings has not played since drawing the curtain on one of the most celebrated careers in the abridged format, curiously this will not be the first time he has appeared for the charity side in the UAE.
In fact he might not have had the long and glorious run he enjoyed with England were it not for a one-off appearance for CNCF in the International Invitational event in 2004.
Gollings was an established part of the England set up already, but a change of clubs in the domestic XVs game in England meant he was unable to train with the national sevens team.
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As such, he was not selected for the 2004 Dubai Rugby Sevens, which England went on to win. He did opt to play in the second-tier competition for CNCF, though, in a bid to prove his worth to Mike Friday, the then England coach.
The plan was a success. A year later, he piloted England’s title defence at the old Dubai Exiles ground, and he went on to score the bulk of his 220 tries after that point.
“I had to play in that tournament for Christina Noble in order to be picked for England,” said Gollings, who now lives in Australia.
“I had been unable to train with the England squad as there were issues around being released to play sevens at that point.
“The idea was that if I could go out and play and the coaches could watch me, I would be in contention to play in South Africa [in the following leg of the World Series].
“Back then, most of us were playing Premiership rugby, and it was a difficult balance to make.”
CNCF are the most successful side in the history of the International Vets event, having had players of the pedigree of Josh Lewsey, Will Greenwood, Austin Healey, Brian Lima and Percy Montgomery represent them in the past.
The squad that will assemble for this year’s event, which starts on Thursday, November 30, might be the most decorated the charity has yet fielded, as they seek to regain a title won by J9 Legends 12 months ago.
There are two former British & Irish Lions in the playing party, Iain Balshaw and Dafydd James, with a third, Simon Shaw, set to fulfill the role of water boy.
Internationals from the XVs game, Olly Barkley, Ceri Sweeney and Elvis Seveali’I are also part of their playing ranks.
“There is a less serious side to it, but nowadays social rugby is not as social as it used to be,” Gollings said.
“Now we are all ex-professionals, who still try to think we have still got it. If you look at some of the names we’ve got, there are some serious players there.
“The hardest thing for me is that I am always the smallest, which means the impact is always that much greater.”
World Sevens Series
1. Ben Gollings (England), 2,652
2. Tomasi Cama (New Zealand), 2,026
3. Colin Gregor (Scotland), 1,345
4. Uale Mai (Samoa), 1,320
5. Dan Norton (England), 1,319
1. Dan Norton (England), 261
2. Collins Injera (Kenya), 244
3. Santiago Gomez Cora (Argentina), 230
4. Ben Gollings (England), 220
5. Tim Mikkelson (New Zealand), 192