Jamie Hood in last-minute dash to make World Cup qualifiers
Hong Kong left last night to play in the Asian qualifying tournament for the Rugby World Cup Sevens without a key member of the squad, Jamie Hood, who has science on his mind.
Flyhalf Hood will rush straight from a parent-teacher evening at South Island School tonight to join the rest of the squad in Singapore just hours before the final leg of the HSBC Asian Sevens Series kicks off.
"Jamie will join us later. He teaches science and PE at his school and couldn't leave with us because of an important meeting with parents," said Hong Kong coach Dai Rees, underlining the amateur nature of the local team, who for the first time are ranked the No 1 side in Asia.
Now they want to add the icing on this cake by qualifying for the World Cup Sevens in Moscow next June. To do this, Hong Kong have to finish in the top three in the 12-team tournament in Singapore.
"We are the Asian champions, but as strange as it might sound, this won't mean much if we fail to win one of the three berths for Asia at the World Cup," Rees said. "This season our focus has all along been to be one of the top two teams in the series and we have achieved that. Now we need to achieve our main goal, which is to qualify for the World Cup."
Hood, who took over the playmaker position from Keith Robertson this season, has played a huge role in Hong Kong winning two of three previous legs of the series - the Shanghai Sevens and the Mumbai Sevens. Rees will want him to be at his best as Hong Kong begin their campaign with pool games against the Philippines and Guam.
"It is going to be a tough weekend and we don't know what to expect from teams like the Philippines, who we believe will be running out their professional players based in Japan," Rees said.
"They have been getting better with each tournament, using more of their foreign-based players, and I believe they will be at their strongest. But we have to believe in our consistency in selection, which is going to be a major benefit to us."
Rees has named an unchanged squad from Shanghai and Mumbai.
"This continuity gives us a vital edge. It is something that some of the bigger teams like South Korea and China have lacked this year," Rees said. "But we are aware that they, and sides like Sri Lanka, will be using this last event as an opportunity to redeem themselves.
"Everyone will be making a massive push to qualify for the World Cup."