TRU Exclusive with David Strettle - Sevens and the City

David Strettle in action for Saracens
Strettle with teammate and co-founder of Sevens and the City Matt Stevens

We are all well-accustomed to seeing Saracens and England wing David Stettle speeding down the flanks and crossing the whitewash; however, the Lymn-born flyer is taking up a new role alongside his own game, by fronting a sevens festival – Sevens and the City.

The festival, run by Strettle and Saracens teammate Matt Stevens, will take place on the 12th of July – a day of international and social rugby 7’s, which will feature the likes of England, Wales, Scotland and Kenya at Allianz Park.

Like most Sevens festivals around the country, the day is not just about the rugby, there will also be women’s 7’s, Netball, Vets 10’s and a 4fittest competition.

For those who do not want to compete, as ever, the day will be all about the atmosphere and having a good time with sporting action throughout, live music, casino’s, Jacuzzi cabanas, VIP Lounges, big screen gaming and much much more…

Talking Rugby Union’s Austin Halewood caught up with Strettle and asked him how he got to fronting a brand new 7’s festival…

“I actually ran a tournament in La Manga, in Spain for a couple of years,” David explained, “just as a small thing and a bit of fun with both netball and obviously rugby.

“In regards to this one, Matt Stevens and I just got chatting one day about how best to use Allianz Park – a brand new stadium with a new athletics track, 4G pitch and generally a great infrastructure.

“Matt was keen on doing a music or food festival and obviously I’ve done the sevens before, so we thought we’d put it all together; which is great because we’ve got such a good footprint there to utilise.”

Like most 7’s tournaments the rugby will have an elite competition and further social competitions – which is the real “heartbeat of the day,” Strettle said.

“I’ve been lucky enough to play 7’s all over the world, and if you look at the Dubai Sevens or the Hong Kong Sevens it’s all about the social side and getting the fans there to have a good time.

“The good thing with what we’re doing is you have the social sides who can enter and that’s always the best way to get the fans down, who will then follow the elite tournament.”

The Saracens wing announced a number of big names already confirmed for the elite section of the tournament:

“With the Commonwealth Games only 2 weeks after the event we have been lucky enough to secure England, Scotland, Wales and Kenya to play.

“Alongside those four sides we are going to have a further 12 elite teams who will play in three groups of four in the morning, with the winners progressing to play the top four sides later on in the evening.

“There’s a number of other international teams that will also compete on the day, including Germany, Belgium, Russia – who will play under the CSKA Moscow banner – and Barbados.

“With such calibre taking part in the tournament I then thought it might be something people would want to cover on TV,” Strettle added, “so we spoke to BT Sport, who are keen to come down and televise the event.”

A ticket for Sevens and the City will be just ten pounds, which gets the holder access to watch all of the international rugby, netball and the 4 fittest competition; take part in all activities, with the final taking place at nine at night and the party continuing until around midnight.

He then added that “what we are looking for now is to get the word out there and get some more teams signed-up for the social competition.”

Moving away from the festival itself Austin asked Strettle about his own rugby season and his roots in the North West.

David played rugby league from the age of five, before switching codes to union during his time at Lymn High School.

He then continued his education at Sheffield Hallam University and it was only then when he seriously “considered playing rugby as a profession.

“I was playing at Rotherham at the same time and was going quite well for them, so I though, actually, I might carry this on after Uni.

“It was that year when Harlequins had been relegated,” he continued, “and after playing against them a few times they offered me a contract when they got promoted again. So that was how I started really.

“The great thing about going to Lymn High School was that there were so many different sports on offer. I played obviously played rugby, but then played basketball too and there were some really good football coaches, so I think you can only benefit from playing so many different sports when you’re younger.”

After moving to London rivals Saracens in 2010, Strettle has been a key figure in much of Sarries’ success.

Strettle marked his first team debut with a try against Leeds Carnegie and the flyer had an impressive campaign in which he made 30 appearances.

Also, a try scorer on his debut for England against Ireland at Croke Park, he has been part of England’s last two Six Nations campaigns.

Sarries are enjoying an impressive season so far, currently sitting second in the league, just a point behind Northampton in first.

However, after leading for the entire season, the London-based side slipped up against London Irish two weeks ago, conceding their top spot to the Saints.

“The most enjoyable thing for me is when the team is playing well,” Strettle said.

“I know we had a slip-up two weekends ago to Irish, but prior to that we’ve had a very good season so far and it’s now just about continuing that form right the way through.”

Saracens are also through to the knockout stages of the Heineken Cup with a difficult away quarter-final to Ulster looming on the 5th of April.

The Warrington-born flyer admitted that the game was going to be a tough one:

“At this stage in the competition no games are going to be easy – they rarely are in the Heineken Cup anyway – so it’s going to be a tough match.

“But we will just treat as we normally do with any other game – we pride ourselves on respecting every opposition that we come against, which means it’s not a case of raising your game for other people, because we’ve not dropped it for anyone else.

“We know we are going to have to be on-form to beat them but that’s the nature of the Heineken Cup and what it’s all about.”

Finally, with long-serving Saracens Captain, and former England Captain, Steve Borthwick retiring at the end of the season, we asked what impact his loss will be on the club.

“It’s going to be a massive loss,” Strettle explained.

“Steve is a massive figure at Saracens and is without doubt the best Captain I have ever played for – if you’re looking for someone to lead a group by example I couldn’t think of anyone better to do the job than Steve.

“The amount of effort and extra work he puts in around the game can only stand him in good stead for what he is going to do after the game.

“You can see the work he put into every game off and on the pitch – he’s definitely what I would class as an un-sung hero: when he doesn’t play you realise it and you really notice he’s missing.

“With the record he has to his name and number of appearances in the premiership he definitely deserves a great send-off as one of the best servants of the game.”

 Saracens welcome Exeter Chiefs to Allianz Park this Sunday. 

Buy Spectator tickets and VIP wristbands for the Sevens and the City festival here:

Sevens in the City