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Rugby 7's Thursday, 13 June, 2002, 16:32 GMT 17:32 UK
Paul revelling in sevens heaven
Henry Paul
Paul has found his niche in sevens rugby

A word of warning to New Zealand, Fiji, Australia and South Africa - Henry Paul's favourite time to play rugby is in the summer.

In his former life in rugby league, the 28-year-old grew accustomed to England's relative sunshine of the summer months.

And between 2 and 4 August he should be at his peak as the home side's playmaker in chief.

Paul told BBC Sport Online: "I think the English rugby season should all be played in the summer months. It's great playing out there in the sun rather than in the mud and the pouring rain."

A Kiwi by birth, Paul is well aware that glorious sunshine is never assured at any time of the year.

Henry Paul in his Gloucester colours
On reflection the season has been a good one

However, conditions don't seem to bother him.

His highlight of his first season since his lucrative cross-code move from Bradford Bulls to Gloucester came in near monsoon conditions in Hong Kong.

Paul was at his creative best, showing the reason the Rugby Football Union and Gloucester had forked out for his services.

He was instrumental in everything that England produced, romping away to a 33-20 win over Fiji in the final of sevens' most highly regarded annual tournament.

He recalled: "I loved winning the Zurich Championship with Gloucester but personally winning the Hong Kong Sevens was the highlight of my first season.

"It was awesome. We played all the very best sides and the very best players and, despite that, became the first northern hemisphere country to win it.

"I could not have written the script any better."

That Hong Kong result and similar performances in the sevens tournament at Twickenham in May have helped convert some of his doubters.

Paul freely admits that he has been rightly criticised for failing to produce the goods at times this season.

open quote
There's good teams against us but I genuinely think we're the best
end quote
Henry Paul on England sevens

But comparisons to Jason Robinson, who made the league-to-union switch with greater ease 12 months before, have not helped.

"That was Jason and he's a great player," he said, "and people have been right to criticise me. But not all the time.

"I honestly believe I've had a great first season which has got better and better."

The newspaper headlines might beg to differ.

Paul was called up by England to face France in the Six Nations and looked well out of his depth.

He has also struggled to find his position, "full-back" he insists, after stints at both fly-half and centre.

And, finally, he spoke out against the Gloucester coaching staff about their lacklustre methods.

"It's a shame that's been the headlines because I've done everything I can this season and am pleased with how it's gone," he said.

New Gloucester boss Nigel Melville
Nigel Melville has Paul's full backing

The coaching woes are now over after Philippe Saint-Andre, who was replaced by Nigel Melville and not always saw eye to eye with Paul.

The Kiwi recalled: "Philippe had plenty of passion for the game but there were deficiencies and I made that clear to him and, in the end, everyone else. Story over."

In fact, all Paul now wants to do is live up to the old adage of doing his "talking on the pitch" this summer.

And the freedom of sevens, which has enabled him to put his fluent, attacking style of play into action, has helped.

However, he insisted: "It hasn't changed me as a player but given me more confidence and I think that's been the same with a lot of the guys involved with the team this year."

And, as such, Paul thinks England will come away with gold in Manchester.

"There's good teams against us but I genuinely think we're the best," he warned. "The coaching set-up is perfect and, without grovelling too much, (team coach) Joe Lydon has been a great influence on me."

Summer sevens can't come soon enough.

See also:

06 Jun 02 | Rugby 7's
05 Jun 02 | Rugby 7's
05 Jun 02 | Rugby 7's
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