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England’s Simon Amor, Henry Paul and Rob Thirlby celebrate their victory at the 2003 Sevens. Photo: Antony Dickson

Hong Kong Sevens best moments No 3: England get serious to finally rule the city

  • British and Irish rugby officials were slow to warm to the Hong Kong Sevens, leaving it to club sides to represent them
  • It was not until after Hong Kong’s handover to China that England became contenders, but the transformation was dramatic
With not long to go until the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, the Post recalls days of yore with three more stand-out moments.

England’s Hong Kong Sevens breakthrough (2002)

It took a long time for England to make their mark in Hong Kong – in a rugby sense. They recorded a breakthrough triumph in 2002 and set about making up for lost time.

Initially, the Brits – and Irish – seemed sniffy about the tournament, leaving it to invitation sides to represent them. Co-Optimists, Scottish Border Club and Public School Wanderers reached a final apiece, in 1980, 1982 and 1985 respectively. The Barbarians went one better, lifting the Cup in 1981.

Irish Wolfounds, Crawshays Welsh and Penguins were among the others who appeared on the Hong Kong stage during the 1980s.

Victory over Argentina in the 2004 final completes a Hong Kong hat-trick for England. Photo: K.Y. Cheng

Clive Woodward ordered a culture change when he was coach of the England 15-a-side team. It was time to put serious resources into sevens, he said.

England had actually won the first sevens World Cup, in 1993, but with a bunch of individuals thrown together for the task. Almost a decade on, a dedicated programme was in place and players were at times fast-tracked into Woodward’s full England side.

With 7 sleeps until Hong Kong Sevens, here’s all you need to know about attending

Josh Lewsey, later a 15s World Cup winner, was in the 2002 team in Hong Kong. Captained by Simon Amor, it also featured Ben Gollings – who would become the World Rugby Sevens Series’ all-time leading points-scorer – along with playmaker Henry Paul and speedster Richard Haughton.

A well-drilled side big on fitness and the breakdown dethroned Fiji to win that year, edged New Zealand 12 months on, and in 2004 saw off Argentina to complete a hat-trick. Another crown was theirs in 2006.