World Cup broadside from HK fan Campo
AUSTRALIAN legend David Campese has lashed out at the Rugby World Cup Sevens organisers for ignoring Hongkong's role in popularising the sevens game.
Campese, making possibly his final sevens appearance for Australia, has long been a staunch believer in Hongkong as the world's leading sevens tournament.
And as well as confirming his support for Hongkong, he attacked the format of the World Cup Sevens, which will see the eventual finalists playing 10 matches over three days at Murrayfield.
Said Campese: ''I don't know what I am doing here. The Rugby World Cup Sevens competition is unnecessary considering there was an ideal opportunity to have a world event in Hongkong three weeks ago.
''All the players were there and they have a magnificent stadium.'' He added that the tournament format in Edinburgh was too demanding on the players.
''What do the IRB think we are, robots? With all those games we have to play they might as well just give the Melrose Cup to the team who are just standing at the end of the tournament.'' When asked why he thought the IRB were holding a world event, Campese rubbed his forefinger and thumb together to symbolise cash.
The Australian winger's views were backed up by an official from Fiji, who won a hat-trick of Hongkong titles between 1990 and 1992 and were this year's runners-up to Western Samoa.
The official, who preferred not to be named, said the IRB were refusing, flatly and arrogantly, to acknowledge the existence of the Hongkong Sevens, which had come to be regarded as the unofficial world championship.
He said: ''The IRB do not appreciate what Hongkong has done for world sevens. It is only because of Hongkong that there is a World Cup here.
''A lot of people have been making comparisons with Hongkong, but the IRB do not want to hear them. Whenever someone says, 'Well, it is done this way in Hongkong', the IRB just say that Hongkong is wrong.'' But he admitted that the Fijians must approach this week's tournament at Murrayfield with the same intensity that goes into their preparations for Hongkong.
''After all, this is the official one,'' he added. ''But it takes nothing away from the Hongkong event.'' The Fijian official also criticised the IRB rules governing replacements, where injured players can be substituted only during a match and after being examined by the tournament doctor.
In other tournaments, replacements can come on at the discretion of the referee, and many feel the new rule will take up too much time.
England captain Andrew Harriman, who has made only one appearance in Hongkong, for the Barbarians in 1991, said all the players saw the territory's event as one of the best in the world.
But he felt organisers were justified in having the inaugural tournament in Scotland, where sevens rugby originated.
''It is right to hold it in Scotland first,'' commented Harriman. ''There is a strong lobby for Hongkong to host the next tournament if there is one, and I can see a situation where Hongkong would.'' The new kings of sevens, Western Samoa, however, have not addressed the issue.
Since their victory over Fiji in last month's Hongkong Sevens final, which made them heroes in their home country, the squad have concentrated solely on their rugby.
Captain Danny Kaleopa said: ''We just think about playing rugby. Hongkong was very intense and we feel the same in Scotland, although in Hongkong there were more things to do outside rugby.
''But since it is the inaugural World Cup, no one knows what it is going to be like.'' Some of the smaller countries taking part in the World Cup have also made comparisons with Hongkong.
Italian team manager Maurizio Mondelli said: ''I think Hongkong has a stronger tradition for sevens rugby than Scotland. But since sevens did start in Scotland, it was the correct decision to have the first one here.'' Cautious Fiji call up cover for Rasari: Page 29