One moment writ large in Simon Amor’s memory rather than down on paper on his outstanding rugby CV is when Team GB made it through to the semi-finals of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
In one of the most extraordinary games in the history of rugby sevens, the best of the Great Britain and Argentina slugged it out for 14 scoreless minutes in the Deodoro Stadium.
For a free-flowing game like sevens to remain 0-0 at the end of normal time was unheard of. It was akin, as a Guardian writer put it at the time, to teams batting out for a draw in a T20 cricket match.
But there needed to be a winner and Dan Bibby’s golden-point try ensured it was Team GB who kept their Olympic sevens medal hopes alive.
“I just remember being blessed to be a part of an immense moment – sevens being in the Olympics and being involved in such a brilliant game. It was the best 0-0 you’ll ever see!” he said.
“When Dan Bibby scored that try, I looked up to the sky, it was a stunning clear night and the stars were all out, and thought this is a feeling you’ll never want to forget.”
An unbelievable experience
Now in the semi-finals and within sight of a medal, Team GB came through another ’knife-edge’ game against South Africa but Fiji proved far too strong for them in the final, winning 43-7.
On reflection, Team GB had more than surpassed expectations given the limited amount of time they had together pre-tournament.
“It was an unbelievable experience and just such a unique situation,” Amor reflected.
“Firstly, because it was the first time sevens was in the Olympics and also the whole scale of the event: it is hard to articulate to anyone just how big the Olympics is compared to anything else.
“With multi-sport Games like the Olympics, you get unique crazy moments like seeing Usain Bolt in the dining hall or watching a knockout game of tennis between Roger Federer and another world-class star just outside your apartment block.
“Secondly, the nature of the Team GB programme is very challenging because we only had 10 weeks together. It was a bit like going into the dark.”
Going with the flow
Adversity is a word used a lot in sport and in life at the moment, and Amor says all teams need to expect the unexpected in Tokyo if they are to be successful.
“I guess the key to a successful Olympics is accepting it is not a normal event. Things will go wrong but having the ability to adapt to that and not let it affect your performance is probably the most important thing,” he said.
“You are so much at the whim of the host organisers because security at the event is at a different level and your logistics are completely controlled by that. You have no sway whatsoever and understandably so.
“Adversity can go one of two ways with groups: it can create divisions or it can bring people together, and that’s certainly what happened in 2016.
“I have never worked with such a tight-knit group, and looking in from the outside and speaking to a couple of people involved with Team GB, that’s what’s happening right now with this latest group.
“It is the teams that cope best with the pressure (on and off the pitch) that are successful.”
While Rio runners-up the Black Ferns Sevens are massive favourites to go one better and take the gold medal this time around, the men’s competition looks far more open.
“No-one has played an awful lot and no-one knows how each team is playing and where each player is at so I’d imagine there will be lots of unknowns going into it,” said Amor.
“The teams that have managed to get the most amount of competition will be at an advantage but, in saying that no-one has had an awful lot of competition. I think it will be fascinating to see how it turns out from that perspective, and also how the game itself is played.
“There has been a fair bit of change with people taking scrums over tap penalties and there has been a bit of a change-up in the physical make-up of the game.”
Amor will be in the Far East, post the Tokyo Olympics, as interim head coach of the Hong Kong men’s 15s team.
The 42-year-old was appointed as Craig Hammond’s successor shortly after leaving his role as attack coach of England men.
He arrives in Hong Kong in the middle of next month with the remit to lead Hong Kong to victory in the Asia Rugby Championship (ARC) in November. The tournament forms part of the Rugby World Cup 2023 qualifying process and the winner will meet either Samoa, Tonga or the Cook Islands in a play-off to determine the Asia/Pacific 1 qualifier.
Like with the Olympics, Amor will only have around 10 weeks of preparation time to get his team ready for matches against Malaysia and Korea.
“I feel so lucky to have coached at a number of levels in the English game, to have coached England at the highest level, and at the Commonwealth Games and Olympics. So the opportunity to bring the learnings to help a developing nation is really motivating for me and I am excited by that challenge.
“Hopefully, I can help them improve and grow and they can go on to win the ARC.”