PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 March, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 March, 2003, 12:00am

Is the Rush hour over? New Zealand's sevens maestro Eric Rush says: 'More than probably.' The man who has been at the centre of New Zealand's rise to become a sevens superpower may have taken his bow on the Hong Kong stage.

Sadly, few people would have noticed as Rush was not part of the New Zealand team who played in the semi-final and final yesterday. He was hobbling on the touchline having injured himself in the quarter-final against Tonga.

So with the captain sitting on the sidelines, New Zealand carried on. But they could not give their captain fantastic the winning send-off he truly deserves.

'I get the same injuries as the younger players, but when you are older, people talk about it more,' said Rush. At 38, he is the elder statesman of the team. The youngest player in the Kiwi side, 19-year-old Liam Messam, was only three years old when Rush first appeared at the Hong Kong Sevens.

England coach Joe Lydon later paid tribute to Rush. 'It was sad to see Rush miss the final. This could possibly be the last time he plays in Hong Kong but then he has been saying that for the past 25 years,' said Lydon.

'It is always disappointing having to watch from the side. You always want to play,' said Rush who played in five Cup-winning sides in Hong Kong and has turned into - along with Fijian Waisale Serevi - one of the living legends of sevens. 'Of course everyone wants to come back and keep on playing at the sevens. You never know. You will have to ask my coach, if I will be back next year,' joked Rush.

'It would have been nice to have won this for Rushie. But who knows, he may be back again next year,' said coach Gordon Tietjens.

With injuries occurring more regularly it is hard to see how even a great athlete like Rush can continue to ignore the ravages of time. 'His body is saying stop! But he wants to go on. He has never said he will retire. It's only the media who have said it - about six years ago,' said rugby commentator Keith Quinn.