Sevens swansong for legend Campo

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 March, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 March, 1993, 12:00am

BRILLIANT Australian David Campese will grace the Sevens for the final time as a player this weekend - 10 years to the day since making his debut in Hongkong.

The 30-year-old winger, who has achieved almost every accolade in top-flight rugby, said yesterday that this weekend's Hongkong Sevens will be his last.

Campese has not played in Hongkong since the 1989 event due to a combination of playing commitments and injury.

But in his seven previous appearances, he has given the tournament some magical moments, helping the Wallabies to three victories since he first stepped on to the Hongkong Stadium pitch on March 27, 1983.

And Campo could think of nothing better than another Australian victory to give him the perfect Hongkong send-off.

''It's 10 years since I first played here and it will be my last,'' said Campese, who was close to retiring from international rugby altogether after the 1991 World Cup.

''To me, the Hongkong Sevens is the best tournament in the whole world, in any sport.

''It's the only place where you can meet different players from different countries, play great rugby and then have a party afterwards.'' Campese, the world's top Test try-scorer, missed last year's event because of injury.

And although he attended the tournament as a television commentator, he would have preferred to join his teammates on the field.

''I always look forward to the Sevens. But last year I did not enjoy it as much. When you are commentating, it is difficult to talk when you would rather be playing.'' Campese, who plays his club rugby in Milan, Italy, yesterday trained with the Australians, who field their strongest line-up since 1989 with fly-half and captain Michael Lynagh, forward Tim Gavin and centres Jason Little and Tim Horan.

Campese made an unforgettable debut in Hongkong in 1983 as Australia turned on an exhilarating exhibition of mud-sevens, rivalled only by Fiji in last year's tournament.

His goose-steps and one-handed pick-ups of the slippery ball astounded the crowd, who left the two days of action knowing they had just seen a future star.

Australia, with Glen and Mark Ella in the side, won the tournament that year, but Campese made a nightmare return in 1984 when an injury on the first day forced him out of the tournament.

The Aussies were also sensationally relegated to the Plate competition by Canada on a toss of a coin, but came back to win the tournament in 1985.

Their last victory was in 1988, when Campese was named player of the tournament, beating New Zealand 13-12 in the final.

But he said every tournament he has played in has been special.

''Every year has been good, and whatever our results, it has always been a team performance.'' Campese and his teammates face a difficult task in seeking their sixth Hongkong title.

They meet the American Eagles and Singapore in Pool D and are expected to take on Ireland in the quarter-final.

Should they win that match, they are then likely to face defending champions Fiji, who beat Australia in last year's semi-finals.

Little, who played centre last year, could be given a new sevens role in the forward department with Hongkong debutant Ryan Constable joining Horan, Lynagh and Campese on the line.

Ilie Tabua, Jim Fenwicke, Matt Burke and Grant Lodge complete the squad.