IRB World Sevens Player of the Year Ollie Phillips has spoken of his dream of playing for a ‘Lions’ Sevens team at the 2012 Olympic Games.
Phillips has starred for England on the Sevens circuit throughout 2009 and the former Newcastle back would love to represent a Great Britain side if the shortened version of the sport wins a place at the London Games in three years time.
The 26-year-old followed the recent Lions series in South Africa closely and the achievements and attitude of Ian McGeechan’s tourists have convinced Phillips that a ‘Lions’ Sevens team would be a truly memorable experience.
"Being English and a rugby player, I’ve obviously taken a big interest in the Lions tour of South Africa," the new Stade Francais signing said in his IRB column.
"The Lions engender a whole different range of emotions and I think the concept embodies everything that the game of rugby is about: meeting new people, travelling the world, playing in fantastic environments against amazing teams and fostering new relationships and partnerships. I think the tour of South Africa has been an unbelievable statement in terms of supporting the amateur ethos of the game."
Phillips was particularly impressed with the sense of identity and unity harboured by the 2009 Lions – attributes he believes fit perfectly with the ethos of the Olympic Games.
"Above all, it’s shown that there’s no substitute for good old-fashioned teamwork and camaraderie," added Phillips.
"On paper the Lions, as a scratch side, should have been nowhere near South Africa, the world champions, with the different amounts of time that the two sides have spent together. But that’s why the Lions is such a fabulous thing to be a part of.
"You can whip together a team in nine or 10 weeks and play great rugby against the top sides in the world, and the second Test was the best game of rugby that I have seen in a very long time.
"As a player you have goals, and playing for your country and winning a World Cup is one of those, but playing for the Lions has got to be the pinnacle, it says you’re the best player in the whole of the British Isles in your position and you get the opportunity to play with the best players that those four nations have to offer, while meeting new people that you’d never get to meet.
"That is why playing for Great Britain in Sevens at the Olympics would be the ultimate for me. Making the Lions 15-a-side team is hard enough, so to potentially make a seven-a-side ‘Lions’ team – and that is effectively what would be competing for team GB at the Olympics, minus the Republic of Ireland boys – would be unbelievable.
"In any sporting environment, the pinnacle is to play at the Olympic Games, it’s the biggest stage that sport has to offer and in picking a Sevens squad you’re looking at the best of the best."