The Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) hasannounced
the men’s and women’s sevens squads to compete in this weekend’s
Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens (7-9 April) and World Rugby
Women’s Sevens Series Qualifier (6-7 April at So Kon Po).
Much is at stake next week with the two squads jockeying for
full-time spots on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and HSBC
World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series in 2018.
“Our men’s seven are preparing for another crack
at qualifying for the World Series next weekend and after battling
all the way through to the final last year, I believe we have an
excellent chance of success. For the first time, our women’s seven
share this exciting prospect with the Women’s Sevens Series
qualifier being hosted here as well - an apt commemoration of the
20th year celebrations of the Hong Kong Women’s Rugby Sevens,”
said Mr Robbie McRobbie, Deputy CEO of the HKRU. “Hong
Kong have reached the semi-finals for the last two years in the
women’s sevens and with this year’s semis being played in the
stadium during the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens we hope
that they can replicate their fine performances of recent years
and make their first appearance in the stadium next week.”
Women’s Seven Hunting for
First Hong Kong Stadium Appearance
For the first time this year, both the semi-finals and the final
of the women’s tournament will be played in front of an estimated 40,000-strong Friday crowd at the Hong Kong Stadium – a dream for
any local player to have ever laced up a boot, and what would be a
first for the women’s team.
Hong Kong have reached the
semi-final of the last two Hong Kong Women’s Sevens, last time out
just missing the final, after losing 5-0 to France in their semi.
“It’s one of the girls’ big dreams to play at the
during the Hong Kong Sevens,” said Hong Kong coach, Anna Richards.
“It’s a massive carrot for them. Obviously it’ll be tough to do,
but if we can be consistent over the two days, I think it’s
The last time Hong Kong’s women were seen out
on the stadium pitch, they brought the house down with their
performances during the qualifying event for the Rio Olympics in
November 2015. In finishing third over that weekend, Hong Kong
twice accounted for arch-rivals China.
Although Rio 2016
proved a step too far this year sees a chance to win promotion to
the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series in 2017/18.
Richards and her squad have been clocking in the overtime as their
preparations have progressed, first heading down south in February
to train with the New Zealand Development squad, before
fine-tuning with a training camp in Japan and an incoming tour
from the Shandong Province, effectively the China Sevens team,
earlier this month.
They proved hard runouts, against
serious opposition, and Richards believes that augurs well for the
“We were able to replicate tournament
conditions against some good, quality opposition, which is
incredibly important before a tournament like the Qualifier. We’re
fortunate to be full-time out at the Hong Kong Sports Institute as
well so it’s all been coming together nicely,” Richards said.
Hong Kong waits Argentina, Kenya and Belgium in Pool B. Adding
spice to the Pool games will be the fact the Argentines knocked
Hong Kong out of Olympic qualifying, while the draw ensured the
locals avoid regional rivals Japan and China in the early stages
“We’ve had two losses to Argentina the last two
times we’ve played. Not big, but close, and obviously we’d like to
turn that around,” said Richards. “Kenya have been to
the Olympics and played a few times on the Series while Belgium
have come out of a very tough European competition, so it’s a
tough call all around. But we’ve been busy and are
training very hard. If we can keep building on what we achieved in
New Zealand, we can enter the tournament with a lot of
Christy Cheng Ka-chi will captain the side
after missing last year’s tournament through injury, with Natasha
Olson-Thorne as vice-captain. Both players are marking their
seventh selection for the showcase women’s sevens tournament.
Richards has also been able to call upon some of her most
experienced players including Candy Cheng Tsz-ting, who marks her
tenth appearance in 2017; Colleen Tjosvold on her fourth selection
and Aggie Poon Pak-yan who gets her fifth selection.
Seven Face Tough Pool Challenge
Hong Kong will take a sixth run
at promotion to the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in the World
Rugby Sevens Series Qualifier at the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong
Hong Kong - who were recognized for their sterling
performance in 2016 by winning their seventh Samsung Sports Stars
Team Award in the eight years last week – reached the Qualifier
final last year, falling to Japan 24-14.
Asian Sevens champions will face off against Chile, Sri Lanka and
Namibia in Pool F.
Hong Kong will enter the Sevens under a new
coach in former Wales Sevens supremo
Paul John. Despite being new
on the ground, John, who played in Hong Kong during the 1997 Rugby
World Cup Sevens for Wales, is well aware of the challenge that
lies in wait inside the Stadium.
“These countries [in the
Qualifier] are getting stronger and stronger. Chile have had a
very good two weeks on the Series and will be playing their third
tournament on the trot here, so it is a real challenge. But it is
a good challenge for us. It’s always exciting to have the
opportunity to play against quality opposition,” said John.
Outside of the Pool the competition gets even stiffer with Papua
New Guinea another side with experience on this year’s Series,
while Germany (who upended Hong Kong on day one last year) are
returning even stronger. Spain, who top Pool G, qualified for the
Olympics last June and finished ranked higher than Germany in
Europe in this year’s qualifying stakes Coach Paul John has
announced an initial squad of 14, which will be whittled down over
this week to a final 12, along with a nominated injury
After being sidelined by injury last year, Max
Woodward will lead the squad into the stadium for the first time,
on his second year playing at the home tournament, and is
surrounded by an experienced cadre, including a trio of
ex-captains in Rowan Varty, marking his HKRU record 12th Sevens
appearance, Jamie Hood on his sixth Hong Kong Sevens selection and
Mark Wright on his seventh sevens.
On the opposite end of
the spectrum is fireplug scrumhalf Jason Jeyam who made his debut
in last Autumn’s Asian sevens series to good effect and could be
in line for a first Hong Kong Sevens appearance in 2017.
Two of the players seconded from the fifteen-a-side Elite Rugby
Programme to the sevens squad last year have again been selected
in forward Toby Fenn and winger Ryan Meacheam.
Kam-shing will mark an hopefully auspicious eighth Hong Kong
Sevens appearance, while Hong Kong will also welcome the return of
Yiu’s partner on the wing, Tom McQueen, if he can pass fully fit
from a lengthy lay-off after an ACL injury in the Asia Rugby
Championship (fifteens) last Spring.
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