Philippines aiming to topple Hong Kong at Lion City Sevens
Welshman Harry Morris is brimming with confidence that his adopted country, the Philippines, will knock Hong Kong off their high perch when the fourth and final leg of the HSBC Asian Sevens Series starts in Singapore today.
If Morris and his teammates have their way, Hong Kong will be in an early dogfight as they bid to qualify for the World Cup in Moscow next year at the 12-team tournament which doubles as the Asian qualifiers.
"We can match Hong Kong. They are a very physical side but we won't have any problems with that. We can take them on and, skill-wise too, I'm confident we will be on a par with Hong Kong," said skipper Morris.
As Asian champions - having won two of the three legs and finishing runners-up to Japan in the other this season - Hong Kong are favourites to clinch one of three spots available for Asia at the 24-team World Cup next June. But everyone starts with a clean slate today, especially the Philippines who have brought in eight new players for this tournament.
"We only have four players, myself included, who played in the last leg in Mumbai. There are eight fresh faces, players who are based in Japan or in Australia. We are at full strength as we have set our sights on qualifying for Moscow," said Morris, who qualifies as he is half-Filipino like the rest of the squad.
"And the best way to go about it is to beat Hong Kong in our pool match," Morris said. "I believe we can go all the way with this side. There is no reason why we cannot."
Hong Kong captain Rowan Varty refused to be cowed by this show of pre-tournament bravado, but conceded that all the good work accomplished this season would be for nothing if Hong King didn't return with a ticket to Moscow.
"We have been playing well as a unit all season and that is our strength. This Philippines side has come together for the first time and might struggle to get their act together," Varty said.
Hong Kong, however, will have to look further than the Philippines, with strong challenges expected from Sri Lanka, China and South Korea in the run-up to the expected final against Japan.
Japan, still hurting from losing their Asian sevens crown to Hong Kong, have called up sevens veteran Katsuyuki Sakai, who led Japan to the Borneo Sevens crown this season. "We are here to qualify for the World Cup but we want to do it in Japanese style, as No 1, and by beating Hong Kong in the final," said Japan coach Tomohiro Segawa.