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Norway: ready for their biggest challenge

Norway are delighted to be the hosts of the European Sevens "A" Championship - the biggest rugby tournament even held in the country's 50 year rugby history. They won promotion from Division "B" last season, and are determined to move forward. We spoke to Scott Johnson from the RFU who has been appointed as coach of their women's team.

Kari Fykse Lie - new captain of Norway

Scott Johnson took over as coach of Norway's women's team just over a year ago, having worked as an RFU community coach in Derbyshire. How has be found first year leading the a national team?

"Norway is challenging. It’s a very small pool of players – there are 100, maybe 120 active adult players in the whole country. But they are very keen to develop and I try to bring them to as many tournaments as possible, like Dubai, Kinsale and Amsterdam, where they can play stronger and better sides so that they can get used to playing at the next level up."

"At home in Norway the national team players are from different clubs and they run riot and score all the tries on their own. Its too easy for them sometimes and they do not get any better, so we need them give them challenges so that they up their levels of skills and experience. When they play against good teams with good experience they have to work very hard. Its exactly what we need."

Playing rugby in a climate like Norway must be a challenge?

"Yes  - we also have a challenge with the weather! Our season starts in March, and they play through the summer. Little happens in winter because of the snow – but also because of the distances".

"And Norway is a huge country, players coming from north to the south have eight hours of travelling which requires a huge commitment. But their enthusiasm is huge as well – they want to develop and what we are trying to do is give them the opportunities to develop."

What are the targets for the team?

"For now it’s not about results because we are up against bigger teams with lots of players and history and it’s hard to compete with that. So it’s about how we perform, whether we learn and improve. If we do the basics well and get better, and keep calm under pressure."

"Norway have dropped 15s because there are not enough players. And sevens is the growing thing, its going to be in the Olympics so its what is going to take off."

"We are a good team with real potential so in the Europeans our target is to stay up at the very least. We’ll be playing in from of lots of home supporters and crowds and that is a challenge in itself. Playing in front of a big home crowd - which we hope to have in Bergen - can be a lift, but can also be a big challenge if you've never done it before!"

Norway are seeded 12th and have new captain - an injury to Cathinka Walberg forcing her to hand over to Kari Fykse Lie. They had four new players joining their squad this year, but have used visits to Kinsale and Amsterdam to prepare. Success has been mixed, but improvements between the two tournaments were noticible, especially when they managed to beat the Irish development tea - Green Lightning - at Amsterdam. 

They open the tournament on Saturday at 10am against Ukraine - one of the favourites - before playing Switzerland and Romania later in the day.

"We’ll be playing in from of lots of home supporters and crowds and that is a challenge in itself!"

Scott Johnson, coach of Norway Women's Sevens