- Brake and Barden assess chances of closing gap on series leaders
- Argentina, Kenya and Samoa big hurdles on opening two days
Photo: Getty Images
Half back John Brake believes England can eliminate errors from their game and close the gap on the New Zealand at this weekend’s Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.
England trail the HSBC Sevens World Series leaders by 18 points going into the sixth of this season’s nine legs following defeats against their rivals by a single score in the semi final and quarter final stages of the Wellington and Las Vegas tournaments.
The setbacks forced England to sharpen the focus on their basics and put in what head coach Ben Ryan believes was their toughest ever month of training ahead of Hong Kong, where they face Argentina, Kenya and Samoa on March 23 and 24 before the knockout stages get under way.
Get it right at the Hong Kong Stadium and the momentum will be with England heading to the Japan Sevens in Tokyo (March 31-April 1) before the Glasgow Sevens (May 5-6) and the London Sevens (May 12-13), the new finale to the series.
“You can always say it [the narrow defeats] was the bounce of the ball but I think really it was always in our control,” said Brake, a full-time England Sevens player based in Surrey.
AUDIO – England Sevens' John Brake and Greg Barden preview Hong Kong
“If we look back at some of the mistakes we’ve made and the way we’ve lost games, we’ve got to take the referee out of the game and the opposition out of the game. It’s always down to us. We’ll always look at ourselves first before we look at anyone else.
“For the rest season you’ve always got to be positive. We sit in fourth place and although the margin in points looks big it can be closed up very quickly with one tournament win, we know that, and the beauty of this season is that we’re going to finish off back on home turf.
“I know we didn’t deliver there [at Twickenham] last season but with a settled squad the guys will be confident and going into the last tournament in front of a big home crowd.”
Photo: Getty Images
Ryan has made one changes to his squad for Hong Kong, calling up centre Charlie Walker (Harlequins) who arrived in Hong Kong on Sunday having secured the Under 20 Six Nations title with England on Friday night.
“I’ve not come up against him yet but he’s got great gas, wheels, pace, whatever you want to call it, and I’ll make sure I’m fresh on my feet so I’m not rounded by a jet-lagged 19 year old,” said Brake, a former teammate of Chris Ashton’s at Northampton Saints.
“I know how keen you can be when you’re 18 - I remember my own first experience of sevens with England. I was young and fresh and you want to do as best as you can and beat the older guys. That’s him now.
“It’s exciting to bring a fresh face in and he can come in and slot into centre and wing, give us a few options there and put some pressure on the guys who are starting. That competition’s really got us training hard in the last few weeks.”
The Hong Kong factor – expats make up the bulk of the 40,000 crowd on all three days at the So Kon Po stadium – should give England a lift, too, according to captain Greg Barden.
“It shouldn’t mke a difference but it does. It’s a home from home for us and the whole week around the sevens and around England is brilliant.
“We’ve got to take it all on board and use it but it all comes down to those three games to qualify for the next stage. We’ve got some hard games, Argentina, Samoa and Kenya. They’re good teams and we’ll have a good battle with them.”
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).