England Sevens star Dan Bibby insists former Cornish Pirates flanker Phil Burgess has a key role to play when the Rio 2016 Olympics roll round next summer.
England will be strutting their stuff at the Exeter Sevens over the weekend of July 11 and 12 knowing their place at the Greatest Show on Earth is already secured.
But that won’t stop the hosts from attempting to follow up last season’s success – when they won the Manchester leg of the European Sevens Series – at Sandy Park.
Yet Bibby’s mind is already starting to turn towards the Olympics, with rugby sevens set for its Games debut, and he says 26-year-old Burgess has all the attributes to help guide his country to success.
“Phil’s a key player in the team,” said Bibby. “He struggled a little bit this year with injury – he had a bang on the neck which put him out for a couple of tournaments, but the mental edge that he showed to get back playing is really impressive.
“When Mitch [Tom Mitchell] goes off, he always steps up as captain and again he is a real leader in the team. Leadership is huge in sevens, especially as the games are so tight – 75 per cent are won in the last minute.
“So when you’re fatigued and under pressure you really do have to have leaders in the team with clear heads tell you what to do and when to do it. Phil is one of those guys who always steps up to the plate.
“Sevens is now a lot more in the limelight and there is a lot of focus on next year. It is really exciting and it’s only going to be good for the game.”
England, who finished fourth overall at the World 7s Series to book their place in Rio, will return to home soil for the first time since the last leg of that tournament at Twickenham in May.
And Bibby admits he’s looking forward to putting on a show for the expectant fans now the pressure of qualification is off.
“We were so proud to qualify for the Olympics there and the work we put in. It’s been a hard year’s graft for a lot us,” he added.
“I can’t wait to get out and play at the Exeter Sevens. It seems like quite a while now since we played last at Twickenham, so the boys can’t wait to get out there and play.
“Exeter is our home tournament and hopefully we can get a decent crowd and put on a show for them. The boys have a lot of family, friends, and girlfriends down to watch, which is nice as we don’t get that too often when we are travelling.
“I’ve never been to Exeter before, but I love watching the Chiefs on the TV as they always get an amazing crowd.
“It will be a tournament that is really keenly contested. You’ve got France and Spain who are really fighting for the top position to qualify for the Olympics, and whoever wins out of those two, it will be a good match.”