Wasps scrum-half Joe Simpson has been selected as part of a 25-man Great Britain rugby sevens training squad ahead of the Olympic Games. The 27-year-old won his only senior Test cap to date at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand and was touted for a potential return ahead of the recent Six Nations Grand Slam triumph only for ankle surgery to rule him out for over three months.
He is joined by Scotland centre Mark Bennett, Cardiff's Corey Allen and Ollie Lindsay-Hague of Harlequins. The other 15s players hoping to make the cut are Scarlets flanker James Davies and speedy Newcastle Falcons full-back Marcus Watson. However, Simpson's club teammate Christian Wade, whose explosive speed and tremendous finishing ability lends itself well to sevens competition, has not been included.
"We have watched a significant amount of footage throughout the season of 15-a-side players and every sevens game from England, Scotland and Wales," head coach Simon Amor said. "Exciting talent was available to us and competition for places was tough. We're now really looking forward to bringing this group together as one team and creating an incredible Great Britain spirit.
"One of the main strengths of the players who have been named today is their aggressive style of play in both attack and defence. Looking at how the games are won at the top level at the moment, it is very much about that physicality, teams who are fearless in the way they play.
"For the 15s, players aiming to make that transition, recent sevens experience at the top level was important given how much the world of sevens rugby has progressed in the last three to four years. We were also targeting players in certain key positions to add strength in depth and complement the qualities of the specialists we already have."
The 19 other members of Amor's squad are all sevens specialists and Team GB will be required to name a final 12-man travelling party on 19 July. The Games of 2016 are the first year that sevens has featured at the Olympics, although rugby union was carried at the beginning of the 20th century. Golf will also make its return to the programme in Rio.
Team GB rugby sevens pre-Olympic men's training squad
Cory Allen, Mark Bennett, Dan Bibby, Tom Bowen, Phil Burgess, Sam Cross, James Davies, Alex Davis, Richard de Carpentier, Jamie Farndale, Alex Gray, Charlie Hayter, Warwick Lahmert, Ollie Lindsay-Hague, Gavin Lowe, Ruaridh McConnochie, Tom Mitchell, Luke Morgan, Dan Norton, Scott Riddell, Mark Robertson, James Rodwell, Joe Simpson, Luke Treharne, Marcus Watson.