- England legends run rule over sevens squad in Hong Kong
- Turner, Norton and Damudamu ones to watch next weekend
Jason Robinson and Austin Healey have highlighted the men they see as potential match winners for England as the build-up begins for the Cathay Pacific/ HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.
England are in the Far East ahead of the next two legs of the HSBC Sevens World Series – in Hong Kong (March 23-25) and Tokyo (March 31-April 1) – bidding to close the gap on HSBC Sevens World Series leaders New Zealand.
The three-day, 12-team Hong Kong tournament sees England play Argentina (12:30 GMT) on March 23, and Kenya (03:20) and Samoa (11:30) on March 24 before the following day’s knock-out stages.
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World Cup winner Robinson watched England lift the Dubai title in December where half back Mat Turner impressed him and went on to claim the Player of the Tournament accolade.
Healey, who won 51 caps for England, singles out prolific finisher Dan Norton’s “unbelievable searing pace”.
And both agree that Fijian-born centre Isoa Damudamu possesses the X-factor that will help England as they try to go one step further than their Hong Kong runners-up spot last season.
“Turner was outstanding in Dubai and you need a player who will put his mark on Hong Kong. He’s not big, but he’s a very dangerous player, especially in close quarters, where he can make space and turn games,” said Robinson, who will be in Hong Kong next week as an HSBC Ambassador.
“He’s got great feet and is one of those players who needs to get hold of the ball. The more he gets hold of the ball, the more likely he is to cause problems.”
Norton is second on the series scoring charts with 23 tries from the first five tournaments behind New Zealand’s Frank Halai.
“It's great in a sevens team to have someone with unbelievable searing pace and he can turn a game in an instant, we've seen that on a couple of occasions,” said Healey.
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“There's good players throughout that side. Damudamu is a great player. He reminds me of Tim Rodber. He's big and he's really quick and when you have someone with that physicality and that pace it can really help.”
Robinson added: “He’s very powerful and really helps the England game.
“While you’ve got your fliers, you need a bit of power and he brings that. He can get the offloads and that’s what the likes of Turner and Norton will be looking forward to. Give the ball to them and they can cause problems.”
Robinson believes the Hong Kong leg is vitally important as England seek to move up from fourth place in the Series standings and make up ground on front-runners New Zealand, who are just five points ahead of Fiji.
“It’s been very close this year with Samoa winning, Fiji winning, New Zealand winning, England winning. It’s very tight up there, so every win is so important. Those points are crucial come the end of the Series,” Robinson said.
“I’ve heard so much about Hong Kong from the England players. It’s the most famous sevens tournament in the world. Yes, they want to win all of the legs, but this seems to be the one that stands out above them all. This is the one.”
After teaming up with Gregan to run coaching clinics in Dubai, Robinson is eager to working with the former Wallaby again as they host an introductory rugby clinic at Good Hope, an all-girls school near Choi Hung in Kowloon.
Immediately after the Hong Kong Sevens, Robinson will head back to England to attend the Rosslyn Park HSBC National Schools Sevens, the world’s largest school rugby tournament with over 7,500 children participating.
Tickets are now available for the Marriott London Sevens weekend on May 12 and 13 2012, with weekend passes starting from £30, single day tickets from £18 and kids tickets at £5 each day. Throughout the month of March all category 2 weekend tickets are available for just £20. (Tickets are subject to availability and booking fees apply).