HK and Japan ready for Asian fireworks
Hong Kong will be at full-strength for the final leg of the HSBC Asian Sevens Series in Singapore this weekend as they go head to head with Japan for the overall regional Sevens championship title.
The return to fitness of experienced forward Anthony Haynes is a boost for Hong Kong, who need to win the Singapore title in order to retain their Asian crown.
Having won the opening two rounds in Malaysia and Thailand, Japan lead Hong Kong by the slender margin of one point in the current Series standings.
Hong Kong responded well by winning the most recent round in India last month and, with a slender points difference lead over the Japanese, they know that any victory would be enough, should they reach the final.
The top two finishers in the Asian Series will qualify to play at the HSBC Sevens World Series qualifying event to be played alongside the main event at the Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens. There 12 teams will battle for one automatic promotion place as a guaranteed core team on the 2014/15 World Series.
"We have put ourselves in position with the win in Mumbai and there is a confidence now that we can retain our title and keep our position as Asian number one," said the Hong Kong's coach and Director of Performance, Dai Rees.
"But we cannot afford to look too far ahead. It is important that we finish in the semis at least to retain our second spot in the series and assure our berth at the Hong Kong Sevens so that we can launch our attack on qualifying for the World Series.
"A win this weekend (over Japan) will give us the confidence that we can go on and win that tournament in March at the Hong Kong Stadium. It's all about confidence and gaining momentum going into the new year," added Rees, who will by then have taken up his new Performance Director role and been replaced as Sevens coach by fellow Welshman, Gareth Baber.
At the all-important Singapore event Hong Kong is grouped with China and hosts Singapore, while Japan are drawn with Thailand and Chinese Taipei. In the other two pools third seed Sri Lanka face the Philippines and Indonesia and Malaysia play South Korea and the United Arab Emirates.
"Singapore is no pushover and although we beat them 28-0 in the cup quarter-finals in Mumbai, they will be tough," said Rees. "China is an unknown quantity. They have come in with a different side in all events to date and they will probably do so again. They will be a danger and we just have to keep our focus."