Lose and Hastings preview Tokyo Sevens
After the drama of Hong Kong, TV commentators Scott Hastings and Willie Lose join Seb Lauzier to look ahead to round 7 of the HSBC Sevens World Series, the Tokyo Sevens on 30-31 March.
Seb Lauzier: Gents, an amazing weekend in Hong Kong – what do you expect now from a tournament in Japan, here in Tokyo?
Willie Lose: Firstly I think the Japanese will be disappointed with how they performed in Hong Kong and will want to try and show some pride in their home tournament. But for me it is about the mental toughness this weekend now in Tokyo. Physically the teams won't be doing too much work with plenty of time for rest and for bodies to recover before they begin to gear up on Thursday and Friday. Off the field there will be hopes to build on the good crowd we had last year and we are all hoping for better weather on day one....
Scott Hastings: Day one was incredible last year. It was cold, the coldest they've had, but wind was just incredible and running up the pitch was tough. But on day two, the brilliance of Australia came through. This year, a lot of teams come into Hong Kong having played some good rugby in Hong Kong and at the bottom of the table there are only two or three points separating the relegation places so there is a lot of pressure which adds another dynamic to this fantastic competition.
SL: Hong Kong is attritional, and it becomes a battle of mental strength. How much is this week about mental preparation?
WL: That is the only thing for the teams. A few injuries for some of the teams has seen them calling on players who haven't been in the environment and that is a challenge for them. The mental toughness will get the victory this weekend. In the past you have always concentrated on who finishes one, two or three, but now we are looking down the bottom too. Who is going to be playing in promotion/relegation, who needs to avoid that and that is why it is so great. There are still great nations fighting for those spots on the next Series and that is why this weekend is not just physical, it is mental too because coaches will be saying we don't want to be in that competition in London.
SL: The weather is noticeably colder here than Hong Kong, how does that play into the form guide?
SH: Interesting to see as it plays a big dynamic. Although it is mentally tough it means all ties were very very close. Day two last year the natural game came through. I fancy the likes of Australia to throw a spanner in the works. Samoa, will come through, I don't think they got as far as they could have done in Hong Kong. Kenya have the ability like they did in wellington but they need to sort out some of their tactical nous. England may perform too. They were so off colour on day one and day two in Hong Kong but they come into this tournament with a lot to offer. There is a lot of pressure on a lot of teams and as Willie was saying it is all about points and England are still in the mix so they have to be wary there. One thing I noticed is that one slip of concentration, costs you a win, and ultimately it is the team with great resolve that will win you a Cup.
SL: No one has put two performances in together. Last week it might have been written in the stars for Fiji, but might they struggle this week?
WL: I don't think they can repeat what they did last week. It was something special, the occasion, the success they have had in the past builds in it. But I think a side like Canada, or Argentina, because their squads have remained the same and their coaches have said they can take a lot of confidence from their performances in Hong Kong, I think they will be dark horses. The great thing is, anyone can beat anyone though. You never write off the regulars, but you always know someone is going to upset at some stage.....
SH: It's funny Willie, you just mentioned some teams, but we haven't mentioned Wales, who made the final last week, or France, they are very physical. We have just thrown 12 sides into the mix...
SL: And yet neither of you have mentioned Series leaders New Zealand! What is the secret?
WL: The key is their core group. They missed Cama in Hong Kong but young Rocky Khan is one for the future. But Mikkelson, Forbes, Raikabula- that three there have so many tournaments and tries, and have been on the circuit for a long time. They have a game plan, but it changes for each team they play. Gordon Tietjens is the architect of their success, he knows the strengths and weaknesses of the other teams and he makes sure his core group of guys understands it.
SH: For me it is also about leadership. DJ Forbes give them that, and Gordon Tietjens speaks for himself. But you get a guy like Ben Lam, he looked nervous back in Dubai on his debut but now he is one the strongest runners. It is this belief that they can still execute their game and deliver under the highest pressure that is what sets them apart as the number one side.
SL: And your winner?
WL: We have had five champions in six competitions. I am going to throw out a red herring, that somebody new is going to win, and that is Argentina.
SH: I am going with the form book, and the consistent model, with New Zealand. They left something behind in Hong Kong and they will want to step up again