Australia looking to get back on track in HK
Australia are hoping to get their world series campaign back on track after disappointing results in the last two events.
The Wallabies are sitting in sixth place in the standings, 40 points behind leaders New Zealand, and know they need to step it up in the remaining four events to finish in the top four.
'We started well in the first three tournaments and then it's a tough series,' team manager Luca Liussi said as the players signed autographs for children at the Australian International School in Kowloon Tong. 'We didn't do well in Wellington, so that put us in a tough pool in Vegas.
'It's the nature of the game if you don't do well in one tournament, in the next one you're in with some of the tougher teams, and we had New Zealand and Samoa in Las Vegas and they ended up being the two finalists. But that was our own fault after some poor performances in Wellington.
'So this is now the start for us to claw our way back to the top four and hopefully finish in that part of the seedings at the end of the year.'
Australia kicked off the season with fourth place in the Gold Coast event, and finished in the Plate final and semi-final in Dubai and South Africa respectively, but only made the Bowl final in the last two events.
With one of the youngest and most inexperienced sides among the core nations, they have also been hit by a number of injuries to key players. Top scorer Pama Fou will miss out in Hong Kong, and coach Michael O'Connor is looking to the likes of captain Ed Jenkins to help guide the less experienced squad members.
'Preparation's been good,' Liussi said. 'We've had four days in Canberra where we do our camps, so we get a lot of our work done before we come away because Hong Kong is obviously a busy city at this time of year and we like to get out and a do a few things like this while we're here.
'We've had quite a big turnover this year of players, unfortunately, due to injury, but it's given a lot of guys an opportunity. We've got two series debutants, Matt Lucas and Shannon Walker, for one of the biggest tournaments there is.'
The new two-tier structure has come in for some criticism, but there's no doubt it will make for a tournament where every single game is important and Liussi insists the prospect of core status for next season will be a massive incentive for the 'other' 12.
'I think it's fantastic,' insisted Liussi. 'Having two separate tournaments of 12 in each stops the blow-out scores, but it also gives a really good opportunity to that second tier of teams, they've really got a pathway now to Olympic funding and to making the top 15 core teams. They're really competitive - all the past tournaments this year with 16 teams have been really tough, there's certainly been no blow-out games.
'There's no easy pools when you narrow it down to 12, I think they'll all be tough games. We've got France first up on Friday, at Wellington we drew 10-10 with them and it was a real tough battle, so that'll be a difficult one. Then we've got Scotland Saturday morning, who are always tough, and then Fiji, so it's three hard games to get through to the quarters.'