Simon Amor’s England lead the charge to Hong Kong Sevens after storming victory in Vancouver
Amor’s squad are a serious threat in the HSBC Sevens World Series after overcoming runaway series leaders South Africa in Canada
England fly out on Thursday for the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens with the wind at their backs both literally and figuratively.
Simon Amor’s squad have loomed as a serious threat in the HSBC Sevens World Series, with the taste of victory in Vancouver earlier this month made even sweeter by the fact that they came over runaway series leaders South Africa and it was the second time the English had done the deed, following their win over the hosts in Cape Town back in December.
The scorelines were 19-17 and 19-7, respectively, and England’s most recent title means the hold the South Africans once had on this year’s title – having won the remaining four legs so far this season – feels vice-like no more.
Speaking before the journey to Hong Kong began, Amor was, as always, circumspect when it came to that most recent title.
“They did a good job,” Amor said of the win in Canada. “Particularly on day two [England rolled New Zealand, Fiji and South Africa]. Like a lot of the teams, they were pretty fatigued and pretty bruised and battered from the Las Vegas Sevens [played the week before]. So they had to recover pretty well to get out there and play some good rugby on day two. So I was pleased for them.”
What might set pulses racing would be victory for England at the Hong Kong Stadium next week. That would break a drought that dates back to 2006 – back when Amor was still dictating terms on the pitch – and it would turn the heat up nicely on the South Africans.
England’s form comes following what Amor labelled an “interesting” 2016 where players were in and out of the squad while the formation of what would become the Great Britain team at the Rio Olympics was being decided. It might have derailed any serious hope of laying down a World Sevens Series challenge – England finished eighth behind the Fijians by its end – but it worked wonders come Rio, with Amor’s men beaten only by those islanders, who went on to claim a memorable gold that somehow had always seemed their destiny.
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) March 15, 2017
“Because of the challenge of the Olympics and trying to bring the Great Britain side together my strategy and plan was always to try and rest players so they could help bring the GB team together,” said Amor. “That made it really difficult for the England side because they weren’t successful and we threw a lot of young guys on there. What it did do was enable the guys to be at a good place to be able to go well in the Olympics. That was an amazing run to get the silver medal.”
Of the young players blooded by England over the past 12 months, the 37-year-old coach pointed towards Ruaridh McConnochie and Ethan Waddleton as signs of the rude health being enjoyed by sevens in the United Kingdom. Part of Amor’s quest when he took charge of the set up back in September 2013 was to grow the sport and when we speak he’s out watching around 7,000 youngsters warm to the game’s charms.
“[McConnochie and Waddleton] have only been with us for around about 12 months and it’s good to see how they’ve progressed,” said Amor. “Also it’s been great getting guys in like Charlton Kerr who scored a match-winning try for us in Las Vegas and he was fresh out of school last year. It’s brilliant for us. So I’m looking at the young guys, seeing what’s out there. Seeing if 15s is right for them or if sevens is the right career path and maybe in four or eight years’ time they can be Olympians.
“On the back of [Rio] there has been a real growth of the game here, and not just in terms of playing the game but of them playing some really good sevens rugby.”
England’s legion of fans at the Hong Kong Stadium will be hoping their heroes will do the same come next weekend and Amor knows exactly what it’s like to win here as a player – he did so four times himself before picking up the clipboard.
“It’s an incredibly special place and everyone is obviously keen to go there and lift the trophy at the end,” said Amor. “We’re in a fortunate place this year where we’ve done alright, we’ve won a couple of tournaments, and we’ll be one of teams who will be up there. It will be amazing if at the end of the weekend we’re the guys on the podium with the Cup.”