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Commonwealth Games 2002
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Rugby 7's Wednesday, 5 June, 2002, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK
Rush hour looms
Eric Rush
Rush is still not finished in the sevens game

The legal profession's loss has been rugby's gain ever since Eric Rush the solicitor became Eric Rush the professional rugby player.

The 37-year-old mixed the two with ease before the game finally turned pro and he became the most revered sevens player in the history of the game along with Fijian rival Waisale Serevi.

Rush is Mr. Sevens, playing in a total of 16 Hong Kong tournaments and leading his side to gold at the sport's debut at the Commonwealth Games four years ago.

But despite being the old man of the Games in arguably his final hour, he is non-plussed about his age.

open quote
I thought at least once a day that my career was over but I refused to give up and that was what allowed me to pull through
end quote
Eric Rush after his appalling leg break

He told BBC Sport Online: "Genuinely the only reason I think about my age is that everyone else goes on about it. I haven't even given retirement a thought - let's just wait and see, hey.

"It's not a problem because I've kept myself in shape throughout my career."

So much so that another New Zealand legend, Jonah Lomu, hailed Rush as the fittest man he has ever met, as well as a friend and his rugby inspiration.

Sadly for Rush, Lomu, his sidekick in Kuala Lumpur in 1998, won't be available for the sevens in Manchester due to Tri Nations commitments.

But a new crop of youngsters are making a name for themselves.

"We've had guys come through like Jonah Lomu and Christen Cullen," said Rush. "Sevens made those guys and they have never forgotten that.

"They'd love to play if they could but we've got some other talent coming through."

Jonah Lomu
Lomu made the breakthrough in sevens

Nowhere is that more apparent than Joe Rokocoko, the "new Lomu", who has been New Zealand's find of the season.

But Rush warned: "It's great to have guys like Joe playing. The only shame is that they prove to be too good and then all the Super 12 clubs come calling."

Injury means that Rokocoko will not be travelling to Manchester, but Rush and coach Gordon Tietjens have a strong squad of players to call on in the defence of their title.

As ever Rush will lead his talented youngsters from the front, but a horrific leg injury and a broken hand have been among his pre-Game obstacles.

When he shattered his knee last year, many suggested it was a sad end to a glittering career.

Rush admitted: "I thought at least once a day that my career was over but I refused to give up and that was what allowed me to pull through."

Since then, he has continued to defy his ageist critics despite the game turning from an afterthought in many countries to a serious sport in its own right.

He continues to train religiously, does not touch a drop of alcohol and has the respect of his team-mates and peers.

open quote
If we win anything, it's like 'good on you guys' and that's about it
end quote
Rush, again

So much so, in fact, that Rush gets some unusual requests from sevens opponents.

With a hint of embarrassment in his voice, he revealed: "Quite often players will come up to me after the match and ask to have their photo taken with me.

"It's about the nicest accolade you can get and I can't say I ever tire of it."

Rush's New Zealand side arrive in Manchester as the pre-tournament favourites although the ever-modest playmaker has been quick to downplay it.

He said: "I prefer to be the underdog - it makes life easier. And anyway Fiji are the favourites if you ask me."

Should they successfully defend their Malaysian gold, there may be little celebration at home.

"In New Zealand, you hardly ever hear anything about sevens," he said.

Eric Rush factfile
DOB: 11.2.1965
All Black caps: nine
Career highlight: Commonwealth gold

"It's all about the All Blacks and Super 12 and, if we win anything, it's like 'good on you guys' and that's about it."

But Rush is not bitter about the game which has made him a global star and kept him out of a desk job.

However, surely the fact that he made just nine appearances as an All Black and has seen team-mates go on to bigger and better things grates.

"Not at all," he insisted. "It was a great honour to be an All Black and I'll always have that."

The changing shape in sevens means that at least six sides have a realistic chance of Mancunian gold.

Five teams have won on the IRB Sevens circuit this season, a blessing in Rush's eyes.

"I love the unpredictability of it," he concluded.

And, with his brash attacking style, his powerful runs and moments of inspiration, that unpredictability looks likely to come to the fore once again.


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