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By ARU Media Unit
Australian Rugby Sevens coach Michael O’Connor says there’s no secret formula to winning this weekend’s Hong Kong Sevens but his team will have to be on their game and finish top of their pool to have the best chance of claiming the iconic silverware.
The sold-out Hong Kong event, which kicks off on Friday, is the pre-eminent tournament of the HSBC Sevens World Series and sees an increase in teams participating from 16 to 24, with more championships points on offer.
Sixth-placed Australia have been drawn in a tough pool alongside Canada, Zimbabwe and Argentina.
Argentina trail the Aussies by just 12 points on the series standings and hold the ascendancy following a surprise 14-12 upset victory in the plate semi-final in South Africa in the team’s last hit-out.
Ahead of the three-day event at Hong Kong Stadium, O’Connor says the equation for his squad is simple --- win.
“Hong Kong is the tournament that everyone wants to win - and it’s not an easy tournament to win,” O’Connor said.
“South Africa have never won it, New Zealand, they haven’t won here since 2008, you’ve really got to be on your game.
“We’ve got a pretty tough pool, but I’m happy to have a tough pool, for us, we’re not going to try and get through on for-and-against, we have to beat Argentina, we have to beat Zimbabwe and we have to beat Canada, so that’s the equation. Simple.”
O’Connor has made just two changes to his squad, with Tevita Kuridrani coming into replace Brian Sefanaia, who has signed a short-term Super Rugby contract with the Western Force and Henry Vanderglas returns to the side after missing the Las Vegas tournament where the Aussies finished seventh.
The Aussie coach has given the nod to nine debutants this series and is thankful for a largely injury-free run which has provided him with the luxury of keeping his squad intact for the next two stages of the World Series, which includes their home event, the International Rugby Sevens Adelaide (April 2-3).
“We don’t have anyone in the squad who is a rookie this time around, which is probably a good thing seeing as this is such a massive tournament, experience counts for a hell of a lot,” O’Connor said.
“We do have nine new players to Hong Kong, who haven’t played up here before so that’ll be a good challenge for them but I think they’re up for it, they’ve been training exceptionally well.
“There’s no team that we can’t beat and that’s my point, there’s probably six or seven teams who can win this tournament, but there’s got to be an element of luck, you’ve got to get through injury free, you’ve got to be on your game, and you’ve got to be lucky with your pools.
“I think it’s a good challenge for us, we certainly won’t be taking a backwards step.”
Last year, eventual World Series champions Samoa came out on top against New Zealand 24-21 to win the Hong Kong Sevens, while the Australians claimed the Plate after defeating South Africa 12-5.
After four events, England and New Zealand are joint leaders on the series standings with 80 points, ahead of Samoa and Fiji (64). Following their victory in Las Vegas, fifth-placed South Africa lead Australia by 20 points.
The Australian leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series, staged in Adelaide, follows on from Hong Kong as stop six on the eight-leg World Series. Tickets for the International Rugby Sevens Adelaide are on sale now at Ticketek www.ticketek.com.au .
Australia: Bernard Foley (capt), Ed Jenkins, (vc), Hamish Angus, Shaun Foley, John Grant, Lewis Holland, Zack Holmes, Greg Jeloudev, Tevita Kuridrani, Jonothan Lance, Jacob Taylor, Henry Vanderglas
(Player profiles attached)
Recent winners in Hong Kong
2008: New Zealand
2005: Fiji (RWC Sevens)