Fri, 3 Nov 2017

Future of Hong Kong Sevens Rugby on Display in Singapore

Hong Kong sevens coach Paul John has tipped another new-look squad for Hong Kong’s appearance in this weekend’s Singapore Cricket Club International Rugby Sevens (4-5 November).

As an invitational tournament, the side will be competing as Hong Kong Dragons this weekend and no senior caps will be awarded.

The selection comes after John already featured five new faces in the Hong Kong squad for the Asia Rugby Sevens Series this summer. John’s efforts to broaden his playing base paid off on the series with Hong Kong reaching two of the three finals to claim second place overall and qualify for the Rugby World Cup Sevens.

Singapore Cricket Club International Rugby Sevens 2017. Click to enlarge.

While the participating teams and pools were yet to be announced at press time, the SCC Sevens is known for attracting shadow and full sevens squads from several teams on the international circuit and John expects at least one Fijian side to be competing as well as the national team of Sweden.

“We were invited to take part and wanted to capitalise on this opportunity. I think the recent selections show that there is a lot of opportunity within the sevens set-up for players in the next two years really. So we want to spread the net as wide as possible, to not just keep our senior group in competitive form, but to develop that next generation of senior players in Hong Kong,” John said.

In Singapore, experienced forwards Chris Maize, Mark Wright and Calvin Hunter will provide the veteran leadership for a 12-man squad that features four of the Hong Kong U20s squad that played in the World Rugby Junior Trophy in September.

Maize will captain Hong Kong for the first time under John as the coach rewards the rangy forward for his commitment to the programme.

“Chris is one of the senior players in the squad and he brings a lot of experience to the side. He has been very good in the environment and he is a great organizer and leader on the pitch, particularly around the kick-offs and the lineout. He has been a consistent performer in the seven or eight months that I have been involved and he deserves this chance to show some of that leadership in the captain’s role this weekend,” John added.

Four U20s representatives have been included, amongst them the U20s captain, Mark Coebergh, as well as James Karton, Jack Abbott and Max Denmark, who already made his senior sevens debut in the finale of the Asian Series in Sri Lanka.

They will play alongside former U20s squad-mate Hugo Stiles, who cemented his place in the senior sevens squad with some positive performances in the recent Asian championships.

“This is a really good opportunity for all of the U20s players, not just for them to show what they can do but for Jev [assistant coach Jevon Groves] and I to have a look at them and all of the players really. All of those selected have been training with us for many months now and have shown a lot of effort, so this tournament is a just reward for their commitment and also an important opportunity for them to grow. You can only learn so much training with your peers, the real gains are made in that competitive tournament environment,” John noted.

Recent age grade veterans in Alessandro Nardoni, Liam Herbert and Eric Kwok Pak-nga have also all earned selection and a chance to impress the selectors ahead of what will be an active campaign in 2018 as the team beings its preparations for the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, the HSBC World Rugby Singapore Sevens and the Rugby World Cup Sevens this spring and summer.

Singapore will mark the final sevens outing of 2017 but tours to Fiji and Borneo are planned for the build-up to the Hong Kong Sevens as well as an incoming tour from the Shandong provincial side in the first quarter of 2018.

Hong Kong Squad for SCC International Sevens 2017

Chris MAIZE (captain) (USRC Tigers), Mark WRIGHT (HKFC), Calvin HUNTER (USRC Tigers), Eric KWOK Pak-nga (USRC Tigers), Hugo STILES (Valley), Mark COEBERGH (HK Scottish), Alessandro NARDONI (HK Scottish), Max DENMARK (HKFC), Jack ABBOTT, Liam HERBERT (HKFC), Tomos HOWELLS (USRC Tigers), James KARTON (USRC Tigers).

Rugby pictures: Pictures from 2018 Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, Pictures from 2017 Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, Pictures from 2016 Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, Pictures of Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2015, Pictures of the Asia Rugby Sevens Olympic Games Qualifier in Hong Kong, Pictures of Singha Thailand Sevens 2015, Pictures from the 2013 British & Irish Lions Tour in Hong Kong, Pictures of Hong Kong Sevens 2014, Pictures of Hong Kong Sevens 2013, Pictures of Chartis Cup 2012 and Pictures of Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2012.

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