FOUR times Simon Amor tasted success in Hong Kong as a player; this week he returns as England Sevens coach, plotting more glory at the most celebrated event on the HSBC World Series calendar.
Amor’s side arrive on the island for this, the seventh of nine tournaments, with their tails up, having beaten New Zealand to third place last weekend in Tokyo.
Captain Tom Mitchell is this season’s overall leading points scorer, with 232, and is supported by Dan Norton, who grabbed more tries than anyone last year. There is also experience among the ranks, in forward James Rodwell, playing his 50th consecutive World Series event.
They have not tasted victory in Hong Kong since 2006 – the last of four wins in a five-year spell featuring Amor – and will need a strong showing if they are to finish the season higher in the series standings than the fourth place they currently occupy.
To do that they must navigate a group including Canada, who they fought off in last week’s quarter-finals, Portugal and Argentina, who they meet tomorrow in their first fixture.
“Argentina are a very good, abrasive team at the breakdown, as are Portugal, and we only just snuck past Canada in the quarter-finals [in Tokyo], so we will need to be really focused for every single game,” said Amor. “If, however, we perform as well as we did against New Zealand then we put ourselves in a position to have another good tournament.”
Series leaders South Africa have never won in Hong Kong and are in the same pool as France and Australia, while second-placed New Zealand face Scotland.
England’s display in Japan was made even more encouraging by the emergence of newcomers including Jack Clifford of Harlequins and Saracens’ Sam Stanley. Amor hopes to forge closer links with England’s 15-a-side set-up, but for now is banking on some raucous backing from the rowdy, 40,000-capacity crowd at this 38th edition of the Hong Kong Sevens.
“We’ve been looking at ways to integrate England Sevens into the international player development pathway to benefit both this programme and the XV’s squad,” he added. “[Hong Kong] is a wonderful experience for anyone who gets to play there or be a part of it and hopefully the expat support will be big for us as well.”