Russian master plan coming together nicely
Coach delighted with his team winning all three pool matches to cruise into the quarter-finals
Russia coach Aleksandr Alekseenko is seeing all the pieces of his master plan for 2013 slot nicely into place as his side cruised into the world series pre-qualifier quarter-finals with an unbeaten record.
"Of course we are very happy with the results so far, but tomorrow is when things become important," said Alekseenko, after watching his side down Zimbabwe 21-12 late in the day.
That made it three from three and victory today against Uruguay would give Russia one of the four places at May's London Sevens that have been allotted to semi-finalists in the pre-qualifier here.
"It is extremely important for us to get to London. We feel we belong there, and as the host nation of the World Cup this year, along with playing here in Hong Kong, that would complete a full circle," he said.
While the Russians have chalked up some impressive victory margins - 43-5 over the Cook Islands on Friday and 31-5 over Mexico in yesterday's morning session - it has been their sometimes brutal defence that has sent the odd tremor around the stadium.
Alekseenko smiled when asked if he was pleased with what he had been witnessing when his team had found their backs to the wall.
"We changed our coaching set-up as we thought what we were doing wasn't working," he said. "We weren't really playing our natural game. Our old system was based on our defence because we are a strong team so we feel more comfortable playing that way."
It showed in the second half of the Russian's second game yesterday as legs looked tired and opponents Zimbabwe threatened to make a game of it. But the Russians were content to soak up the pressure and protect the points they collected in the first half.
"We are in very high spirits," said Alekseenko. "And we are hoping Hong Kong can kick-start something really good for us."
Japanese coach Tomohiro Segawa was another who could be forgiven a smug little smile of self-satisfaction as the day drew to an end.
His outfit are also unbeaten going into the quarters - where they will meet Georgia - and arrived here looking fresh and eager, something the coach puts down to three weeks locked away at the vast Olympic training facility in Tokyo.
"It is really rare for us to have such an opportunity and I am very happy with the results we are seeing here," said Segawa. "We were able to work really hard with no distractions and now we couldn't have asked for more than three victories."
Two of Japan's speedsters were to the fore, Sione Faamao Teaupa crossing three times as his side overran Jamaica 43-0, while Kazushi Hano showed his Georgian opponents a clean set of heels on his way to a hat-trick of tries in Japan's late game, which they won 26-7.
"We have been trying to play fast and we will go back to the hotel tonight and not really change anything about our preparations," he said. "We will rest and we will be ready."
In the other quarter-finals this morning, Zimbabwe face Brazil, while Tonga will line up against Tunisia as the race to London goes down to the wire.