Fiji, England and New Zealand stars wary of jinxing their chances as kick-off looms Waisale Serevi, Liam Messam and Ben Gollings sat side by side yesterday and next to the Melrose Cup - object of desire of all 24 teams who will run out today at the Hong Kong Stadium for the start of the Rugby World Cup Sevens. But none dared to touch sevens rugby's sacred chalice. For fung shui or superstition forbids aspiring winners from touching the Cup before the tournament. Defending champions New Zealand and closest challengers England and Fiji didn't want to give the rest of the pack an easy advantage on the eve of the fourth World Cup. 'It's going to be a tough tournament. New Zealand and England are very strong. England have won in Hong Kong for the past three years, but not this year,' joked Fiji's Serevi at the pre-tournament press conference yesterday. Kiwi captain Messam would have silently agreed with Serevi. Serevi, 36, will have Gollings in his sights if the two sides meet on Sunday. The Englishman last month overtook Serevi as the record points-scorer in the IRB Sevens. But Serevi still has the jump on him when it comes to tries and points scored in World Cup action. Gollings will start from zero, this being his first World Cup. Serevi has figured in all three previous editions - topping the scoring list with 252 points - and will play a leading role in his country's campaign to win back the trophy they won in Hong Kong back in 1997. 'It is an honour to be back in Hong Kong. Like any other team. We too want to win the World Cup. We want to win it for the people back home in Fiji,' said Serevi who is making a comeback after a two-year absence from the ground where he made his sevens debut in 1989. Despite not having won a tournament for the past two years, Fiji are considered one of the top contenders with new sevens coach Wayne Pivac having put together a team mostly comprising overseas-based stars. Now the question on the lips of all Fijian fans is whether this team of champions can transform themselves into a champion team in time. 'We have had a couple of solid hitouts and we are ready. We played three matches against Tonga and the pleasing thing is that we didn't allow them to score a try at all. It was not tackle rugby, but I'm still happy with our defence. This will be the key to success,' Pivac said. Serevi echoed Pivac's view. The Fijian captain said: 'Defence and ball retention is the key in sevens. Once we get that sorted out, everything else will fall into place. I think we have a great strike force and we can score from anywhere.' Although they have won the past three tournaments in the IRB Sevens, New Zealand could sorely miss the twin strike force of All Blacks winger Joe Rokocoko and injured star Roy Kinikinilau. Former Kiwi great Eric Rush - who will assist coach Gordon Tietjens from the touchlines this weekend - believes the young team will have to play exceptionally well to defend their title. 'This is not our strongest side but it is still a team who will be in contention. New Zealand have played well in the IRB Sevens this season but the World Cup is a different proposition,' Rush wrote in his exclusive column for the South China Morning Post in today's rugby supplement. 'We are looking forward to getting out there and getting on with the job. We are ready for it,' said the soft-spoken Messam yesterday. At 20, he will be the youngest captain on show this weekend. Four years ago, soon after Jonah Lomu had powered New Zealand to victory over Australia in the World Cup Sevens final in Argentina, Messam arrived in Hong Kong as part of the Rotorua Boy's School rugby team. They were taken on a tour of the Hong Kong Stadium and he dreamt then of playing for his country one day. 'I remember walking up to the highest seat on the west end of the stadium and thinking how great it would be to play for New Zealand at the Sevens here. I never expected to lead my country in a World Cup,' Messam said. Simon Amor will lead England out today. But yesterday it was Gollings who held sway as he faced the world's media and expounded on England's bid to make it a double and add the Sevens crown to the XVs World Cup. 'Obviously it is at the back of our minds. You can't hide from that. Our goal will be to just go out and do our stuff for England. But there is a lot of competition out there,' he said. Today all three players will run out with the same goal on their mind. And they know any of four or five other teams, among them Argentina, South Africa, Samoa and Australia, could throw a spanner in the works. So playing it safe, Serevi, Gollings and Messam did not touch the Melrose Cup yesterday. They hope to do that on Sunday night.