In partnership with the HKRFU
Stakes are high for Hong Kong skipper Jamie Hood
Being named captain of the Hong Kong sevens team is an undoubted privilege, but if you're also the player that could lead the side into the World Series the stakes are even higher.
That's the challenge facing Jamie Hood, who will skipper the home side in this weekend's qualifying competition. The Hood-led team will face the likes of top-ranked European team Russia, Asian sevens champions Japan and Africa's leading side, Zimbabwe, in the 12-team competition, where the winner will be promoted to the World Series.
"It'll be a huge occasion. We've got to aim for qualification. Getting into the series is one of our goals. But we've a long way to go before we can achieve that as it's a tough competition," Hood, 27, said.
On any given day, each of the teams can beat the other. It's a level playing field with Hong Kong having as good a chance as any of qualifying.
This month in Harare, Hong Kong finished third overall at the Zimbabwe International Sevens, following a sluggish start that saw them lose to hosts Zimbabwe (21-5) and Russia (26-12).
"Obviously, we played a couple of teams at the Zimbabwe Sevens that'll we'll also face in Hong Kong. We didn't play very well at all and lost to both of them, so that was a bit of a lesson," Hood said.
"If we play up to our normal level we can definitely beat them, but we need this consistency. It all means that in the matches things could get very tight.
"Sevens can be a cut-throat sport as you can have just one bad game and you're out of the tournament - but it's the same for everybody. We just need to take each game as it comes and try to be as consistent as possible."
The Hong Kong Football Club fly half will be making his third appearance at the Hong Kong Sevens and believes that home advantage could make all the difference if games go down to the wire.
"It's definitely an extra incentive to play well in Hong Kong in front of family and friends. It should bring the best out of you, although there's also pressure on you to perform well," Hood said.
"But the stadium is amazing. The way it's built means you hit a wall of sound when you go out there. The support gives you a real boost and it's something that could make all the difference when the going gets tough." Hood gave up his job as a teacher to become a full-time elite athlete with the rugby sevens programme at the Hong Kong Sports Institute, and promotion to the world's elite is just one goal he and his teammates have.
There's also qualification for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and winning the Asian Games sevens crown in Incheon, South Korea, in September.
"Being a full-time athlete means you do set your goals much higher, but they are always aligned with the goals that have been set as a team," he said.