If you haven’t won in Hong Kong, you haven’t done anything: Fijians get their priorities right
Coach Ben Ryan says players and fans back home consider the city’s sevens tournament as the one they MUST win
It’s like being the number one tennis player in the world without winning Wimbledon or any other grand slam – that’s how Fijian rugby players feel about their desire to win the Hong Kong Sevens.
Coach Ben Ryan said their ranking as the world’s top sevens side is highly valued, but not as much as winning in Hong Kong, which so far they have done 15 times.
Although the Fijians are understandably putting Olympic gold as their priority for this year, the Hong Kong Sevens still has a special place in the hearts of players and their compatriots thousands of miles away in the South Pacific.
“Very much so,” said Ryan when asked if the players treat Hong Kong differently to other tournaments in the HSBC Sevens World Series. “Everybody wants to get on that plane a little bit more.
“Up until we play in Rio, Hong Kong is the Olympic Games for Fiji because there’s so much history with this tournament. You haven’t really earned your stripes as a Fijian sevens player until you’ve won in Hong Kong.
“The boys are desperate to get on the plane and do themselves justice. None of them wants to be in a side that loses in Hong Kong.”
Indeed, for the past 40 years Hong Kong has provided the stage for Fiji to showcase their rugby skills to the world and the players seem to lift their game whenever they take to the Hong Kong Stadium pitch.
The defending champions trained yesterday at So Kon Po and looked sharp, fit and hungry for success during their 90-minute workout.
“Some of the best performances by the Fiji sevens team have been in Hong Kong,” said Ryan, who has represented England at the Hong Kong Sevens. “Nine or 10 of our team here have won in Hong Kong before and there are a few boys who haven’t.
“But they fear the threat of being in a team that doesn’t win in Hong Kong.”
Fiji are in pool D with Wales, Canada and South Korea for the Hong Kong Sevens. They lead the series standings with 106 points – having won in Dubai and Las Vegas – one point ahead of South Africa, with New Zealand third on 104 points.
Ryan said he knew the importance of the Hong Kong Sevens early in his Fiji coaching career.
“They used to talk about Hong Kong with passion but it’s only when I got there that I was told by the [Fiji rugby] board that you can lose every tournament but as long as you win in Hong Kong, we’re happy.
“I tried to tell them that each tournament has equal points but that didn’t really matter.”