- Ryan confident England can overturn Samoa in opening match
- Addition of new players will strengthen team
Coach Ben Ryan says that his England side are in good shape going into the sixth leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series in Hong Kong and ready to continue their climb up the series table.
England are ninth in this year’s standings after five events, after recovering from an injury hit start to the campaign by winning the New Zealand leg of the tour last month.
They face 2010 series winners Samoa in their opening Pool C match on Friday, then tackle Scotland and Portugal in their other Pool C matches on Saturday before the knockout stages the following day.
England haven't won Hong Kong since 2006, but have played well in So Kon Po in recent seasons without going all the way.
“Lots of people bang on about not winning Hong Kong for a while and our record in last seven years,” said Ryan. “This is our seventh Hong Kong under me. We have had 18 pool games and won 17 of them and in the last four years in the semi and quarter finals we have lost to the winners, so whoever has beaten England has gained huge amounts of confidence and gone on to win the title.
“We have had some tough times in Hong Kong and you learn all the time from that and make sure next time you come here you come stronger and we will start well against Samoa and get some momentum. I’m not worried about anybody we play against, but we have a great deal of respect for every team on the circuit. One thing that we are asked is ‘what do you need to do to take out tournaments and get success?’ We have to make sure we are as good as we can be and make sure we get our A game in place.”
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Samoa are currently third in this year’s HSBC Sevens World Series and won the Dubai Sevens at the end of last year. The physicality of the Pacific Islanders makes them a tough opponent but Ryan is confident the team can work around that and play their own game.
“The lads call the games against the Samoans “man tests “, where you have got to front up physically, and dominate the collisions - an area that they really pride themselves on. If it were a boxing match we would be in a different weight category. You have to box clever against them but at the same time you have got to avoid the conflict, keep the ball against Samoa and you have got to negate their kick-off.
“They play a wide, wide game and keep big men in the wide channels and when we have got the ball you have got to be clever with it we have got to find the space and exploit it. We have got one or two other things that we intend to do against them.”
England will be bolstered by the addition of forwards Mike Ellery and Richard De Carpentier, who will add extra bulk against the Samoans. Ellery will be making his debut in the series while Worcester Warriors back row De Carpentier returns to the set-up having featured in the 2010-11 campaign.
“So far I have been really pleased with our build-up,” added Ryan .”We first time this year we have really had the ability to select, drop and pick people and with that Mike Ellery has come into the squad.
“He has been someone who we signed at the beginning of the year and he had a stress fracture in his back which kept him out for almost seven months, so he is going to be a little bit rusty but he adds real, size power and pace and he is a really skilful No.8 in 15s. He is going to be around for a long time and Hong Kong is a pretty good place to make your debut.
“Richard de Carpentier joined us a couple of years ago and played in Scotland. The last time he ran on the field he scored a great try against Fiji in Edinburgh and we wanted to bring him back in. He is good over the ball, he had some competition in the forwards and adds a bit of steel up front."