Defence the key to World Cup hopes

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 September, 2008, 12:00am

Defence will be the key to success at next month's Rugby World Cup Sevens Asian qualifiers, according to Andrew Chambers, who led the Hong Kong squad on an unbeaten run at last weekend's warm-up tournament in Abu Dhabi.

Hong Kong showed they will be a tough nut to crack as they scored over 150 unanswered points in five games against the Arabian Gulf and Kazakhstan. In the past couple of months, Hong Kong have played 17 games, including tournaments in Denmark and Malaysia, and have seen their line crossed on only six occasions.

'We recognise the importance of defence and pride ourselves on being hard to break down. It will be a key aspect if we are to qualify for the World Cup,' Chambers said yesterday. While the calibre of the opposition was not as tough as Hong Kong would have liked, the brief desert sojourn has put the final touches on the team's preparations for the Asian qualifiers at the Hong Kong Football Club on October 4-5, where they will take on Sri Lanka and India in the preliminary pool games before a likely crunch semi-final against the dangerous South Koreans.

'We will be naming the final squad on Thursday. It will be a tough selection as there has been a lot of good individual play,' said Ivan Torpey, Hong Kong Rugby Football Union's head of performance.

The 16-strong squad will be whittled down to 12 and Chambers believes four good players will miss out for the 12-team men's tournament.

'In the past you could pick your 10 players and add another couple. But now we have around 18 players who could all easily fit in. It is going to be a tough choice for the coaches to make,' Chambers said.

Hong Kong Football Club winger Adam Raby is one of the new faces pushing for selection. Raby scored eight tries last weekend to stake a strong claim. In the forwards, another newcomer to sevens, Mark Goosen, also had a good outing.

While Korea will be the target - a win in the semi-final will book Hong Kong a berth at the 2009 World Cup - Chambers said Sri Lanka could pose problems in the pool competition.

'We won't be taking them lightly. They are no pushovers and we will be focused on winning our pool well before looking ahead to Korea,' Chambers said.