Support act takes a turn in spotlight for Simpkin
By NAZVI CAREEM
PLAYERS knocking on the door of national selection but who have been ignored by their clubs will get their chance to shine in Sunday's First Division Sevens at Police Boundary Street.
The eight-team tournament will feature a Hongkong Rugby Football Union Select side, chosen by national coach George Simpkin, and containing players of proven worth who were unable to win places in their club sides.
It will also give those players a chance to win places in the 14-man squad for the Canberra, Hongkong and World Cup Sevens events, which Simpkin will name soon after this weekend's tournament.
Simpkin has yet to finalise the Select team as he awaits news of the line-ups of the other seven participating sides - favourites Club, Police, Flying Kukris, Valley, Dragons, Tigers and Kowloon.
Football Club's Justin Weston, Joe Hancock and John Clarke are likely to be in the Select team as they failed to win places in Club or their second-stringers Dragons sides.
Club skipper Mike Ferrier said: ''We had a lot of players to choose from and it was very difficult in deciding who should play.
''We could have come out with two good sevens sides from our squad.'' Ashley Jones, Steve McCullough and Euan Weir survive from the team which won last year's national sevens.
Also in the Club squad are Will Wilde, Dave Bulbeck, Keith Gauntlet, Paul Wellham, Philippe Lacamp, Mark Thomas and Ferrier.
Former Royal Regiment of Wales skipper Ed Cutting is part of the Dragons squad which also includes Steve Christopher, Rob Brewis, Gareth Jones, David O'Brien, Andy Symms, Frank Avon, Kelvin Avon and Neil Seltzer.
Club are in Pool One with Police, Kukris and Select while Dragons take on Valley, Kowloon and Tigers in Pool Two.
After a round-robin, the winners and runners-up of each Pool advance to the semi-finals.
Kowloon and Valley are also expected to provide formidable challenges. Kowloon have some quality sevens players to call upon in Hongkong skipper Craig Pain, Charlie Riding, Gerrit Heyns, German Mathias Entenmann and Tim Leach, who made his sevens debut for Hongkong in their victory at last week's Darwin tournament.
But neither side can write off Tigers, who will be led by Steve Burton, skipper of Hongkong's 15s side at last year's Asian Championships.
Tigers will field a new face, Pat Davies, a dentist who is one of the growing ranks of civilians joining and strengthening the military club.
Their 15s coach Phil Kemble has handed the sevens coaching to Burton but said: ''We will be the underdogs but we are hoping to cause a few shocks.
''Steve is a fine player and knows what to do to make the side tick.'' Police are hoping that Hongkong international Jim Walker will be fit to play in the tournament.
Walker, whose hamstring injury forced him to pull out of the Darwin Sevens, is on stand-by.
But Police have plenty of speed in Walker's fellow-international Ian Strange.
Skipper Dave Lewis said Kiwi newcomer Mark Timaru could also provide a few fireworks.
''Mark joined us for trials the other night and looked very good, so we included him in our squad,'' said Lewis.
Players who do not make Simpkin's 14-man sevens squad will still be out to make a good impression on Sunday as the tournament will also be used to pick a Hongkong squad for the Carlsberg International 10s at Sports Road from April 24-25.
The squad will be coached by former Hongkong international 'Whacker' Payne.
Simpkin also said that selectors are now looking at players for an Emerging Hongkong squad to will take part in the ARAFURA tournament in Darwin in April.