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Leading Light: Hood wants Hong Kong to “play out of our skins”

20140324_Jamie-Hood_Hong-Kong-Sevens_BySportAsia_615JAMIE HOOD succeeded Rowan Varty as Hong Kong sevens captain last year and now has to lead the hosts in the 12-team World Series qualifier at this weekend’s Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens. Hong Kong-born Hood talks about how he and his teammates are dealing with the pressure.

 

By SportAsia

 

You took over from Rowan Varty as captain of the Hong Kong Sevens team last year and you’re now leading the team into the World Series qualifier at the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens in front of an expectant home crowd. How are you coping with the pressure?

As captain, there’s always pressure on you to try and perform. I’m lucky enough to have guys like Rowan [Varty], the McQueen brothers (Alex and Tom) and Nick Hewson, so although I’m captain, I very much rely on their support as well to get the team through.

 

What changes have you noticed since the team started training at the Hong Kong Sports Institute last year?

I still think we’re on a learning curve. We had some great performances when we were down in Darwin (in January). Zimbabwe was a bit more testing, especially on day one, but we managed to take two steps forwards again on day two and we just have to keep our performance at that level and take it to the Hong Kong Stadium.

 

How beneficial was having that tough tournament in Zimbabwe two weeks out from the Hong Kong Sevens?

It’s always good to have those tough games, especially before a big tournament like Hong Kong, to get our heads back in the right place and get ourselves back to working hard and in that professional atmosphere. It was good; a good tournament, a tough place to go and play rugby, but yes, it was a successful tour.

 

Japan, Russia and Zimbabwe have been touted as the main contenders along with Hong Kong for the World Series qualifier. Have you looked much at the other teams?

A little bit, but we have to focus on ourselves and what we can do. I truly believe that if we play to our potential, then we can beat anybody in that 12. Unfortunately, everyone’s at the same sort of level, so it’s going to come down to very fine margins at the end of the day, as to who qualifies for the series and who doesn’t. Japan had a couple of 15s guys in the Tokyo Sevens, Zimbabwe have a strong team, Russia have a strong team, Tunisia and Italy are going to compete as well, so it’s a tough tournament.

 

Jamie Hood receives his Hong Kong shirt ahead of the upcoming Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.

Hood receives his Hong Kong shirt ahead of the upcoming Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens. Photos: SportAsia.

These ‘fine margins’ keep recurring when you play Japan on the HSBC Asian Sevens Series and elsewhere. Do you think you’re in a better position now to deal with the tense final minutes of matches?

I’d like to think so, yeah. I’d like to think the support we’ve got at the Sports Institute now and obviously having been in those situations over and over again, having tight games like we had in Zimbabwe and Darwin, that can only be good for us, so hopefully we can do it at the weekend.

 

What do you think are the main strengths of the Hong Kong team?

The team has been together for a long time. I’ve known pretty much every individual for a long time apart from Raef Morrison, but he’s come in this year and has been fantastic and is a real stalwart of the team now. I think team ethic and teamwork is one of our massive strengths. I also think we’ve got a lot of firepower out wide. Our wingers and our pacemen will hopefully serve us well at the weekend.

 

How important will it be for you to have the Hong Kong crowd backing you?

Going into the Hong Kong Stadium is an amazing experience, especially because you’re at home and you’ve got 40,000 people screaming for you. The way the stadium is constructed, it’s like a wall of sound when you come out of that tunnel. Obviously it helped us last year, as we did well in the tournament and managed to make a final. We played in London after that and probably didn’t do as well as we should have done, so obviously home advantage is going to be important for us.

 

Is this Hong Kong’s best chance of qualifying for the Sevens World Series, as you’re at home and not competing against any existing core teams?

On any day, we can beat top teams. We beat Argentina last year, we beat USA and we beat other series teams. But you can’t really compare it to this qualifier this year. There are so many teams that want to be on that series so badly and they’re going to play out of their skins to get it and we’ve got to get ourselves to that level as well – play out of our skins and get on to the series.

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