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Hong Kong Unveils Men’s and Women’s Sevens Squads

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Notice: Our coverage of the 2012 Hong Kong Sevens is sponsored by the Regal Kowloon Hotel.

 

 The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union (HKRFU) has unveiled the men’s and women’s sevens squads that will compete in the upcoming Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens and the IRB Women’s Sevens Challenge Cup Hong Kong.

While both squads enter an intense period of competition with experienced sides, the traditional March rugby landscape has changed dramatically as both tournaments mark new formats in 2012.

This year, the HKRFU Men’s Sevens team is competing in the HSBC Sevens World Series (HSBC SWS) Qualifier portion of the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens. By finishing in the top three teams of this competition, Hong Kong would qualify as a core team on next year’s HSBC SWS with the right to compete at all circuit events worldwide. To do so, Hong Kong will first have to get past pool opponents Tonga, Uruguay and China.

HKRFU Head of Performance and Coaching/National Coach Dai Rees paid tribute to the competitiveness of the 20-man Hong Kong Men’s Sevens training squad saying, “This has been the toughest selection process in my career coaching at an international level, which is a great credit to the squad.”

Coach Rees has shown faith in the side that took the gold medal at last month’s HSBC Asian Sevens Series tournament in Bangkok with several of the final 12-man team having participated in Thailand. Team mainstays Keith Robertson, Kwok Ka Chun, Anthony Haynes, Salom Yiu Kam Shing and Tom McQueen have all made the final selection.

Rowan Varty, the team’s most experienced player with six Hong Kong Sevens appearances, will captain the squad for the first time in the Hong Kong Stadium next weekend.

“Rowan is a natural leader and has significant experience despite still being a young player. He will likely still be in contention as we approach qualification for the Rugby World Cup Sevens and ideally the Olympic Games in 2016,” said Rees.

Three players will make their debut at this year’s event, Ross Armour, Lee Jones and Ally Maclay. “Those three have added significant depth to the squad and have helped place positive pressure on all of the squad members in a bid to retain their places. It has been the best preparation period we have had since I have been involved and I think that it puts us into a good place for the Sevens and for our build-up to qualification for the Ruby World Cup Sevens.

“I am very satisfied with our preparations as an entire training squad and am most pleased that despite the intense competition for places, once the squad was named, all of the players quickly rallied behind their team-mates. With the added challenge of the Tokyo Sevens in the week after Hong Kong, we will be using a greater range of players from throughout the squad over the two tournaments.

“The players have done the hard yards and now it will come down to 14 minutes at 7.24pm on Friday night against Uruguay to see where we truly stand,” concluded Rees.

In the 2011/2012 season to date, the Hong Kong Men’s Sevens squad has won two of four HSBC Asian Sevens Series tournaments (Goa and Bangkok) and finished as runners-up (Shanghai) and bronze medalists (Borneo) in the two other events in the inaugural year of the HSBC Asian Sevens Series.

Hong Kong also reached the Cup quarterfinals in two international invitational tournaments in Australia last November, narrowly losing on both occasions to the shadow Australian Sevens squad. Earlier this month, the squad was recognized for its recent performance by winning the Hong Kong Sports Federation & Olympic Committee’s Sports Stars Team Award for Team Only Sport for a second consecutive year.

The Hong Kong Women’s Rugby Sevens squad has also been named ahead of the new IRB Women’s Sevens Challenge Cup Hong Kong Hong Kong. Hong Kong will be taking part in the new IRB Women’s Sevens Challenge Cup Hong Kong, a fully sanctioned event by the International Rugby Board, that coincides with the celebrations of the 15th year of the Hong Kong Women’s Rugby Sevens tournament.

The IRB Women’s Sevens Challenge Cup Hong Kong has attracted eleven premier international women’s teams with the hosts pooled alongside current Rugby World Cup Sevens champions Australia and The Netherlands.

In a first for Hong Kong women’s sevens, four women’s matches will be played at the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens including the Plate Final, the two Cup Semi Finals and the Cup Final.

With four of the 12-woman squad making their debut in the IRB Women’s Sevens Challenge Cup Hong Kong, the team will be relying on co-captains Royce Chan Leong Sze and Christine Gordon to help lead them to a game in the stadium this year.

In his role as HKRFU Head of Performance and Coaching Dai Rees commended the women’s sevens team saying, “The women’s team coaches, Kane Jury and Andy Yuen, have done an excellent job with the squad. The profile of the women’s game is growing in Asia, particularly in sevens rugby, and the competition for spaces was as intense as it was with the men. It is an exciting year for women’s rugby with the IRB recognizing our long-running Hong Kong Women’s Rugby Sevens with official IRB status and I am sure that the team is well prepared for the challenge ahead.”

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