The good news for English rugby fans is that England - defending Rugby World Cup Sevens champions - will be able to pick their best players for the March 21-23 tournament at the Hong Kong Stadium. The bad news is that the side will be under-prepared, and could end up being led like lambs to the Southern Hemisphere sevens slaughterhouse. In the old days, the bearer of such bad news would more likely have had his head chopped off by royal decree. However, yesterday a Nigerian prince, Andrew Harriman, laid his head on the block to impart this knowledge, albeit reluctantly to the Hong Kong media. Harriman, who led England to the inaugural title four years ago at Murrayfield, arrived in town to start the official countdown for the March extravaganza and hand over the Melrose Cup - one of the few international sports trophies England can boast of holding. Four years ago they defeated Australia to win the tournament. Harriman does not discount the idea of England performing well again. 'There are three or four sides who you would say will do well,' said Harriman. 'I would like to think that England is one of those sides.' As manager of the England sevens team, Harriman is fully aware of the pitfalls facing their title defence. As always, many of the obstacles come from within. 'Due to the congested schedule, the players won't get time to train together. The good news, however, is that because they are professionals now and contracted to the Union, they all have a release clause which makes them available for the World Cup Sevens,' said Harriman. Having a free hand to pick the players, the RFU has chosen a squad of around 20 players, who will meet only once (next Wednesday) before the tournament. The nucleus of the side will comprise players who appeared in the English strip for the first time at last year's Hong Kong Sevens. Players like Chris Sheasby, Adedayo Adebayo, Austin Healey, Neil Back and Tim Rodber will be in the final reckoning when the squad is culled next month. 'The nucleus of the side will be from last year. There will be plenty of experience around as there will be players who played in the last World Cup. I won't be handing around much advice,' said Harriman. Harriman discounted the possibility that favourites and defending Hong Kong Sevens champions New Zealand would be weakened by Jonah Lomu's absence. 'New Zealand are not a one-man band. They won't be weakened by not having Lomu, but the tournament would have been richer if Lomu was around,' added Harriman. A ticket bank will be set up for the tournament, allowing fans to purchase tickets that others are unable to use. 'Anyone who is not using their tickets for Friday, Saturday or Sunday, will be able to deposit it at a drop zone at Exchange Square. We will re-sell the tickets and the proceeds will go to charity,' said Peter Duncan, chairman of the Hong Kong Rugby Union. Tickets will be re-sold at $250 (Friday), $350 (Saturday) and $500 (Sunday).