Faster than Bolt - England's rugby 7s star Dan Norton

Ahead of playing at the Dubai 7s this weekend, we caught up with England's try machine and compared his sprint times with the fastest man on the planet.

Neil Churchill December 3, 2015

They travel the globe going to some of the world's most popular cites; they are professional athletes who have fitness and nutrition coaches on hand around the clock; and thousands of people pack the stands to watch them perform their job.

No they're not Formula One drivers, pro golfers or tennis players; they are rugby sevens specialists, and they're performing in the UAE this weekend.

Yes the Dubai 7s is in town once again, this Thursday to Saturday, as the first leg of the HSBC Sevens Series. One of the familiar faces on show will be this guy, England's flyer and try scoring machine Dan Norton.

Ahead of the tournament we had a chat with Dan and found out what makes sevens an appealing option for professional rugby players. Here's what he had to say...

How did you become a sevens player? 

I first started playing sevens when I was 16-17 at Hartbury College, UK, and in the summer there was the option to play some sevens. I played in a London competition which was my first real taste of sevens rugby. I went on to play invitational sevens for some local teams in the south west of England, and then played in another tournament for Gloucestershire and that is how I got picked up to play for England Sevens.

What is the appeal of being a professional sevens player rather than playing in the 15-a side game? 

There is more space on the field and time on the ball plus the chance to play in some amazing climates in great countries. The good weather suits my skill set – it's good for pace and creates the chance to beat defenders.

The Olympics was also a big part of the appeal as well as the travel. We are literally going to some of the best places in the world, destinations that people are very envious that we get to go to. We travel eight or nine times a year, getting to see different places and cultures. It is very special to represent England around the world, we are very fortunate. 

Which are your favourite cities and tournaments on the global circuit?

If I was telling a tourist where to go, I’d say Las Vegas! It has got a bit of everything – you can watch the rugby but it also offers endless entertainment! For me, I like Wellington, New Zealand, especially when the weather is good down there. There are lots of nice places to go for coffee and the scenery is amazing!

From a rugby perspective the prestige of the Hong Kong 7s makes it very special. It is a renowned tournament around the world and there is a good build up to it. The city almost shuts down and everyone really embraces sevens! 

What's the toughest fitness drill you do?

We do the yo-yo test which it is the hardest test we do. It is peak output and you just have to hold out for as long as you can! We do that together as a squad and we are all trying to better our previous scores and try and push each other, beat the guy either side of you. It is the test you dread and the day before you start getting flutters in your stomach and on the morning you are really nervous!

Just how quick are you? 

My sprint time over 10 metres is 1.55 seconds [that's faster than Usain Bolt's 10m] and my 40m time is 4.7 [Bolt's is 4.65]. I’m trying to improve on that at the moment as everyone else is also trying to get quicker. I’m constantly working to develop more bows to my game, look at how and when I use my speed and combine it with ability to make me a better player all round.

Are you strict with your nutrition? 

The benefit of tournament time is that you can eat as much as you can! Leading into the tournament and during the tournament it is more important to have carbs and keep hydrated. I can’t really eat too much between games as I feel bloated but the approach to that varies between players. I like to eat something but not too much although eating does provide something to do between games!

Who is the fastest opponent you've faced, and who won the foot race?

Carlin Isles and Perry Baker [both USA] are the ones everyone knows but every team tends to have its fast guys. I thankfully haven’t been wheeled by Carlin yet or Perry and hopefully won’t in the future either! I pride myself on that! But at the same time it isn’t any different to playing other teams, they all have their speedsters and it is our job to give them less time and less space. The whole rugby world is getting faster which is making our job harder!