In partnership with the HKRFU
Beware magic of Twickenham, warns Gesinde
Backrower tells teammates not to let sense of occasion overcome them at London Sevens
Hong Kong must not be overawed by the sense of occasion - playing at Twickenham for the first time - and treat this famous ground as just another strip of grass, warned former England sevens hopeful Eni Gesinde as his teammates encounter the awe-inspiring cathedral of rugby for the first time tomorrow.
There are many facets in Britain's rich and historic tapestry that can leave the first-time visitor in awe. And the British know a thing or two about pomp and circumstance, which was on full show on Wednesday when the Queen visited the Houses of Parliament for her annual opening.
Something similar is on the cards this weekend when Rowan Varty and his side attempt to become the first Asian team to become a regular in the HSBC Sevens World Series. And Gesinde, the only man in the Hong Kong squad who has played at Twickenham, is mindful of the spell it can cast.
"Just imagine 70,000 people screaming at this huge ground. It will be something and the trick will be to take it all in, but not be overcome by it. When we cross the whitewash, we have to look at it as being just another ground and just another game," said Gesinde.
Born in Nigeria 30 years ago, he left Lagos as a two-year-old when his parents, both doctors, decided it was best to move west in search of a better life. Brought up in the British public school system, Gesinde's first love was soccer, but a decision to move to Leeds when he was a teenager ended in him taking up rugby.
In 2007, former England sevens coach Mike Friday spotted Gesinde at a sevens tournament in Amsterdam and invited him to join the larger national sevens squad which included the likes of David Strettle and Danny Care.
"My first love, however, was 15s and when I got an offer from Newcastle I joined them. It was while playing for Newcastle that I had the opportunity to play at Twickenham, both at 15s and sevens - the Middlesex Sevens," Gesinde said.
"It is something special playing there, especially when there is such a big crowd as there will be this weekend. We must not let the sense of the occasion get to us and I don't think that will happen. The guys are used to playing in front of 40,000 fans at the Hong Kong Sevens, and even though this will be bigger, I think we will be okay," said Gesinde, who arrived in Hong Kong four years ago.
"When the game starts, it does not matter if you are playing at Twickenham, London or in Mumbai, what counts is that we just focus on the task at hand," said the Kowloon backrower.
Apart from Gesinde, only one other player in the Hong Kong squad has felt the experience of playing at Twickenham, Jamie Hood, who played there on a couple of occasions, but he is injured and has to sit out.
The rest went on a familiarisation trip to the ground yesterday, though it will be a different story when full. "We must put aside the awe factor and just get on with our jobs. I think we should be okay," Gesinde said.