Thursday 30th March 2006
As the Hong Kong Sevens celebrates its 30th anniversary, England's young sevens squad are only thinking about this year, and once again winning the trophy that they have won for three successive years. The tournament begins tomorrow and England are keen to put the disappointment of not winning the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games behind them, with a victory this weekend. Winning the Hong Kong Sevens would not only close the gap between Fiji, who are currently top of the IRB Sevens table, but would put some distance between second placed England and the several teams who are also aiming to be the first team other than New Zealand to win the IRB Sevens series.
England Sevens Coach Mike Friday explained, "This really is a crucial tournament for us this season and all the boys are fired up ready to play again after Melbourne. There are a very valuable ten bonus points on offer by winning Hong Kong - the only tournament with extra points available - which means that all the teams are really focused on winning. It should be an incredible weekend of rugby."
Only three of the 12-man squad have played in the tournament before, which attracts over 40,000 fans each day. England enjoy great support from the largely ex-pat crowd. Captain Simon Amor, who led England to their three successive wins from 2002-4 (2005 was the Rugby World Cup Sevens) said, "This tournament is extremely special to every England player. The history and sheer scale of the tournament makes it a fantastic experience and every player who runs out tomorrow will never forget playing here. There is alot of talk about us aiming to make history with four wins in a row, but to be honest it doesn't matter what has happened in the past, we have to perform this weekend. The squad who have won here before has moved on now. This is a new, exciting young squad and every one of them wants to win the tournament."
Newcastle Falcons winger Mathew Tait has never been to Hong Kong before and can't wait for the rugby to start. "This week has been really good and we have trained hard. The Games are behind us now and for the past two weeks we have been working towards this tournament. We are all focused on doing well and really want to show what England can do."
Rugby World Cup winner Dan Luger may have played rugby all over the world but he can't wait to experience his first Hong Kong Sevens. He said, "This is my first time to Hong Kong and its a really exciting city. There is so much support for England out here that it will be amazing to play in front of so many passionate fans. Hong Kong is a legendary rugby tournament and I am thrilled to be involved."
Andy Vilk of Northampton Saints came close to playing in the World Cup last year but narrowly missed out. He is eager to play this year, "Training has gone well and there is a real sense of anticipation amongst the squad. The disappointment of Melbourne is still very much in the backs of our minds and playing well this weekend is imperative if we are to win the series this year."
England Sevens squad for Hong Kong: Simon Amor, captain (Gloucester), Ben Foden (Sale Sharks), Ben Gollings, Dan Luger, Nils Mordt (London Irish), Henry Paul (Gloucester), Ben Russell (Saracens), David Seymour (Saracens), David Strettle (Rotherham), Mathew Tait (Newcastle Falcons), Tom Varndell (Leicester Tigers), Andy Vilk (Northampton Saints).
England begin their Hong Kong Sevens campaign tomorrow (Friday) at 4.52pm (9.52am GMT).
Photos of the England Sevens squad in Hong Kong today are available from Getty Images at www.gettyimages.com
Keep up to date with their progress at www.rfu.com
For player or coach interviews please contact Sally Price, England Sevens Media Manager on 07801 802 711.