Hong Kong Sevens

Wales want to ride wave of success to Cup quarters

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 March, 2008, 12:00am

Six Nations grand slam champions Wales will be looking to their sevens squad to continue riding the crest of a wave at the Cathay Pacific/Credit Suisse Hong Kong Sevens next weekend.

But Welsh sevens coach Gareth Baber has not set his sights too high and is only aiming to reach the Cup quarter-finals at the Hong Kong Stadium.

'Our aim is to finish in the top eight, but we will have to improve on our performances from the last two tournaments if we are to achieve that,' said Baber, who has been buoyed by the return from injury of captain Jonathan Edwards.

Wales are one of the 12 core teams in the IRB Sevens who will play in all eight legs of the series. They lie 11th in the standings with 10 points - 70 behind runaway leaders New Zealand who have won all four tournaments.

Baber brings a side mixed with experience and raw talent. Edwards has recovered from a hamstring injury and will be one of five players who helped lift the Plate last year. The others are James Merriman, Lee Beech, Alec Jenkins and James Lewis.

Ospreys centre Gareth Owens, who figured in the Wales Under-20 team which finished runners-up to England in the Six Nations Championship, returns to the squad after playing in the opening two legs in Dubai and George.

'We have an experienced squad of players,' Baber said. 'Our development players, such as James Harris, James and Robert Lewis and Alec Jenkins, have a number of tournaments under their belts now and are becoming very good sevens players in their own right.'

Wales will have their work cut out trying to make it into the Cup quarter-finals as they are drawn with Fiji, Zimbabwe and South Korea in the preliminary pool D.

Meanwhile, Argentina will be missing veteran Pablo Gomez Cora, who will be staying at home for the birth of his first child. However, his brother, Santiago Cora, the all-time leading points-scorer in the IRB Sevens, will be back for last year's Plate runners-up. Argentina are drawn with South Africa, Russia and Japan in the preliminary round.