Hong Kong’s Sevens prep a success, says coach Dai Rees
It was under wraps and closed to the media, but Asian champions Hong Kong's first dress rehearsal against a top core team, England, was declared a success by coach Dai Rees as the home team ramped up their preparations for the weekend's Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.
The 12-man Hong Kong squad had a 75-minute hit-out against England at Sandy Bay yesterday where the players were immersed in "pressure situations", similar circumstances they failed to handle at the Spar International Sevens in Zimbabwe, their first competitive tournament this season, nine days ago.
"It was really good. We are where we need to be," said Rees. "We have been training for some time, but this was an opportunity to put all our systems under pressure and the guys did well.
"We looked at every aspect, from set-pieces to kick-offs. We threw the line-outs and worked phases from it, and likewise with scrums, all under pressure to see how our systems worked. They worked well.
"This is not the first time we have had training sessions with England. We have had quite a few in the last year and it was good to work out with a top core team. We will have two more sessions against top sides, Wales and New Zealand, before we play our first game on Friday against Fiji. Hopefully we will be ready by then."
The lack of preparation, mostly mental, was cited as the reason for Hong Kong's poor show in Harare where they lost to a second-string Kenyan outfit and Zimbabwe on the opening day before bouncing back to defeat Georgia 21-19 in the Bowl final. But skipper Rowan Varty has promised a better showing this weekend.
On England's request, yesterday's session bar a brief period for filming, was closed to the media. England, and coach Ben Ryan, are seeking their first Cup win in Hong Kong since 2006.
England, winners of the Wellington Sevens this season, will face Hong Kong at the World Cup Sevens in Moscow in June. It did not bother Rees, who said here was more to learn from a hit-out against a big team.
"At the end of the day things might change by the time Moscow comes around. We don't know if this same England team will turn up. The benefits of having a session like this, where a core team puts us under pressure, is immense," Rees added.