LONDON Irish’s Ellie Clayton-Smith hailed the England Rugby Sevens Series finals as an incredible learning experience after they went up against the country’s top amateur sides at the Bay, home of Nottingham RFC.

The fourth edition of the annual tournament saw 16 men’s teams and five women’s teams from across England battle it out to secure the national crown on Saturday.

Following a streamlined format for 2019, teams were invited to the competition’s showpiece finale after accruing ranking points at 31 regional events, including 18 women’s qualifiers up and down the nation.

Irish lined up as one of the five women’s teams to take to the stage in the East Midlands, and despite missing out on the ultimate prize, Clayton-Smith, 28, said the tournament had been great for their development.

“We’d be lying if we said we thought we could come here and win the tournament,” she said.

“It’s a really tough standard and if we’re being honest we’re just all really pleased to be here.

“We’ve got a strong 15s team and we’ve had a really good season, and sevens is a great chance to carry on playing throughout the summer.

“It’s a bit more relaxed, people get their friends involved and we only train once a week because people have lots of other commitments.

“It was a bit of a surprise to get through to today’s tournament and we’ve found ourselves up against some really tough teams, but actually we’ve done really well and done ourselves proud.”

The England Rugby Sevens Series, participated in by hundreds of clubs across the country, is open to all club and invitational sides and is the ultimate competition for men’s and women’s amateur stars.

This year’s competition culminated in Nottingham for the first time with Skeat Sevens, from Loughborough, being crowned the men’s champions and Cats Sevens – based in the South West – claiming the women’s title.

In addition to a display of mouth-watering sevens rugby action, visitors were treated to a festival-like atmosphere, with a DJ and a range of food and drink facilities on offer in the glorious sunshine.

Clayton-Smith added: “This has been a fantastic event and we’ve all thoroughly enjoyed it.

“There’s been a great atmosphere, the facilities are brilliant, and we’ve really enjoyed our rugby.

“I think women’s sport is rapidly increasing in popularity and you see it a lot more in the media – the England team are over in America at the moment doing us proud.

“Events like this are testament to that and it’s been brilliant to be a part of.”

The England Rugby Sevens Series is England Rugby’s premier competition for amateur men’s and women’s sevens teams. For more information, visit