‘Running around like a headless chook’: Dowling ready to turn sole focus towards Olympic, Sevens glory

Thu, Dec 7, 2023, 4:22 AM
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
Ben Dowling is looking to make the most of his Sevens return. Photo: World Rugby
Ben Dowling is looking to make the most of his Sevens return. Photo: World Rugby

Returning Sevens star Ben Dowling is eager to immerse himself in the Sevens environment in the quest for success.

Dowling has spent the start of his Rugby career flipping between the two formats after debuting at the end of 2021 in Dubai as part of the 'misfits' crew.

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He'd return to help them to a London title before watching them hoist the World Series aloft in LA, spending the following season entrenched in Waratah camp.

Dowling played four games for the Waratahs before the allure of an Olympics and the new-look SVNS circuit was enough to bring him back to the shorter format.

“When I made my debut two years ago, I was floating between Sevens and 15s and talking to Johnny (Manenti) and DC (Waratahs coach Darren Coleman), I really wanted to give 15s a crack being in the Tahs environment as well as the Sevens and that’s something I had set my mind on," he told Rugby.com.au

“I really enjoyed the experience with 15s and learnt a lot in a really enjoyable environment but I kept constant conversations with Johnny and they were always looking if those opportunities (to) come back.

“With the Olympics coming up and the new Sevens format, it looked like a really exciting year. I’d been in that group before but never in a full-time capacity so it was something that excited me to give Sevens a crack, training full-time and preparing for tournaments which I hadn’t really done before, I’d normally just come in a few weeks before.

“To come back in with the new format, Olympics as well and into a positive environment with the Sevens where it’s smaller and you really want to work for each other is exciting.”

Dowling returns to the Sevens program with a clearer perspective of how to prepare for the rigours of the tour in an Olympic year.

“I think last time I was almost running around like a bit of a headless chook in the sense I was bouncing between teams. I was having fun but I probably didn’t understand the preparation and detail needed to play at the Sevens and ‘Tahs level,” he admits. “I think at ‘Tahs I learnt the preparation the players put in for the guys, you build that up into the week and I’ve learnt that and brought it back into here where the boys really had a good 15-week pre-season.

“…Last time, I was probably just going with the flow whilst this time I know the detail and preparation I need to put in to be successful.

“I got a few glimpses of that last time when winning the tournament in London and then the boys went on the win the World Series and then with Randwick and the ‘Tahs so hopefully this time I know what’s needed and how to prepare myself properly to put myself in the best position for the tournaments.”

They were unable to replicate their second-place finish from Dowling's debut in 2021, eliminated by eventual champions South Africa.

The 23-year-old understands a week is a long time in Sevens, best shown at last year's after Samoa claimed the Cape Town event after finishing seventh a week earlier.

“Yeah it’s obviously tough,” he admits. “It started at the pool stages with a couple losses which is hard but the interesting format of Sveens is you can still get through to a quarter-final where we had the opportunity against South Africa and I felt we definitely had our chances there, that was just a couple of key moments.

“You want to start well but I’ve also had in my experience with Sevens week one we didn’t always have the best week but the great thing about Sevens is that week two where you’ve got another opportunity to work hard and get into the quarters and push on from there.

“It’s a tough loss to take but a lot of learnings from week one with the new debutants and new combinations.”

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