HONG KONG SEVENS
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Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2016

Hong Kong under pressure after loss to Germany

Coach Gareth Baber says some of the new players still getting used to intensity of the tournament

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 April, 2016, 10:10pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 April, 2016, 12:23am

You would think by now Hong Kong would be accustomed to the home-town expectation of a Friday night at the Hong Kong Sevens.

Having a host of first-timers would not have helped, but Hong Kong certainly have a knack of making things tough for themselves.

As a result of a 12-5 loss to Germany, they will, for the second year running, enter day two of the qualifying tournament needing to win to ensure their passage to the quarter-finals.

We’ll lick our wounds for a little bit but get realistic about what we’ve got to do and we’ve got to come out and get a victory
Gareth Baber, Hong Kong coach

Zimbabwe stand in the way of Hong Kong and an automatic finals berth, although there is a chance they will qualify as one of the two best third-placed sides as a result of a 43-0 shellacking of the Cayman Islands.

For coach Gareth Baber, only a win will do.

“We’ll lick our wounds for a little bit but get realistic about what we’ve got to do and we’ve got to come out and get a victory,” Baber said.

“We’ve just got to get our heads around the intensity.”

The injection of Toby Fenn, James Cunningham and Ryan Meacheam from the 15s elite rugby programme was always going to create a bit of an unknown, but Baber was pleased with what he saw first up.

“They’re getting used to playing in front of this crowd in the intensity of the Hong Kong Sevens,” Baber said.

“They’ve done well, they have done what we’ve asked them to do. It’s a tough learning experience.”

Hong Kong looked stagnant with the ball in hand at times against Germany and struggled to cope with the pressure when their opponents turned up the heat in the second half.

They’re getting used to playing in front of this crowd in the intensity of the Hong Kong Sevens
Gareth Baber

Jamie Hood, thrust back into the role of captain during the week, was one of Hong Kong’s best across both matches, while Alex McQueen turned in two solid performances.

Michael Coverdale scored twice in the Cayman Islands rout and Fenn crossed in his first game at Hong Kong Stadium.

In other qualifying action, an ability to increase rugby sevens participation at grass-roots level is one of the carrots dangling in front of Spain as they attempt to go all the way.

According to coach Jose Ignacio Inchausti, the exposure created by HSBC Sevens World Series core status will increase the reach of rugby sevens in Spain markedly.

“It’s very, very important for Spanish rugby,” he said. “Rugby sevens is growing in the country. It will give us tournaments all year, so all the young lads will be able to see us playing at world level.”

Spain breezed through their first two matches to lock in a finals spot, seeing off Papua New Guinea 33-0 and belting Mexico 41-0.

While Inchausti is not looking past his side’s final pool game against an also undefeated Chile, he knows winning here would only be the first step for his side.

“We will have to professionalise the players so they are dedicated 100 per cent to sevens so we can try to get to a level where we are able to stay up,” he said.