Fri, Mar 30, 2007 - Page 22 News List

England look to continue dominance of HK Sevens


Fiji captain Semisi Naevo, left, and New Zealand captain DJ Forbes share a light moment during a news conference in Hong Kong yesterday. The Hong Kong Sevens Rugby tournament will be held from today through Sunday.


England will attempt to secure a fifth straight win in the Hong Kong Sevens this weekend, with Fiji and South Africa among the teams likely to provide a competitive and action-packed tournament.

The English have dominated in recent years under captain Simon Amor, who first led the side to victory in Hong Kong in 2002.

But they have fared poorly on this season's international sevens circuit and sit in fifth place after four tournaments, behind Fiji, New Zealand, South Africa and Samoa.

England coach Ben Ryan, who took up the job in January, said his players have only just gelled into a side that could collect the US$100,000 winners' cheque.

"After a lot of uncertainty over who would be available, it is great to finally have a squad we are so pleased with," he said ahead of today's opening games.

"We have not done brilliantly in the earlier tournaments, but we were picking from a small group. Now we have a serious gang of players who should perform very well," he said.

The Hong Kong Sevens has been a breeding ground for England internationals, with 14 of the 32 players involved in their last four wins going on to play for the senior side, and the trend looks set to continue.

"Danny Care and Dave Doherty are two names who may become stars this weekend and who I expect to graduate to the full England team, so too should Dave Seymour," Ryan said.

"Ben Gollings, one of the greatest ever Sevens players, is not here. But we knew his situation some time ago, due to his contract with Doncaster. I like to think he would fight to get a place in our side now," he said. "And to have Simon Amor as captain is such a bonus. He has perhaps the best tactical brain in the game."

Amor, 28, said: "We are a team desperate to win this tournament -- both those players who have won before and those who have not."

"Fiji are favorites, I think. They have been playing fantastically this year, and there is Samoa, who won in Wellington in February, which was tremendous for the game" he said.

Veteran Fiji superstar Waisale Serevi, 38, returns for what may be his final appearance at the Hong Kong Sevens.

"There is only one tournament for us in Fiji," he said. "Since we were at school we all stopped whatever we were doing and listened on the radio. When we win the Hong Kong Sevens it is a good year for everyone at home."

But he told his players to relax, saying: "I always tell my teams to forget what other people are saying. If you worry about other teams you will put a lot of pressure on yourself. Enjoy it, keep smiling and do you what you do best -- playing rugby."

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