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Fri, 13 Sep 2019

Hong Kong Squads Set for Second Asian Rugby Sevens Test

After a strong first innings in the opening Asian Rugby Sevens Series tournament in South Korea, where the men took silver and the women bronze, another stocked group of Hong Kong’s sevens athletes are in Huizhou, China (14-15 Sep) for the second of three legs on the series, which builds up to the Olympic qualifiers in November.

Four players enter the men’s team, which lost to Japan in the final in South Korea, as coach Paul John continues to rotate his group and sharpen up a squad for the Olympic qualifier.

 Raef Morrison, Seb Brien, Alex McQueen and Ben Rimene are included in the 13-man squad with Rimene the nominated injury replacement for the weekend. Their inclusion sees forwards Kane Boucaut and Toby Fenn, and back Tom McQueen, rested.

The eight-team Series offers no easy groups and Hong Kong face a physical route to a hoped for cup final appearance, with Philippines and UAE, promoted to the series this season, UAE, also in Pool B, along with China.

Hong Kong in action against Ireland in the Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2019. Picture by Steven Howard of TravelNewsAsia.com Click to enlarge.

UAE had a muscular debut in Korea, narrowly losing to Philippines in the plate semi final before beating Taipei to claim 7th overall.

A motivated China seven, fresh from claiming Bronze in the opener - their first podium finish in nearly a year, are second seeds behind Hong Kong and will prove a stiff test on home ground.

John is confident he has a group suited for the task. “Our squad is strong. This competition is getting more difficult to pick a squad for, now, which is good. There is good competition across the group and we have another 14 or 15 guys training that are not travelling, but are pushing for spaces, and that is what we want. The boys were excellent in Korea and got very close to Japan, but we didn’t play as well as we could in the final, and that was a bit disappointing. We want to go as far as we possibly can again this weekend. But there is no use in talking about it, until we have an opportunity to play our first game. We’re only thinking about the UAE and China, our day one opponents.  China were very good in Korea. They can give us a hard time and we are probably playing UAE at the worst time to get someone like that, in the first game of t tournament. It’s a tough group and we need to be on top of our game to come through,” he said.

There are also four additions in the 13-woman team for China, with Jessica Ho, Amber Tsang Wing-chi and Agnes Tse Wing-kiu coming in while Florence Symonds, Amy Pyle and Lee Tsz-ting are rested.

The youth movement continues as coach Iain Monaghan uses every opportunity to expose Hong Kong’s emerging talent to next-level competition. After a seamless debut from Symonds, who scored a hat trick against Kazakhstan in the bronze medal final, coach Iain Monaghan is set to debut another in a long list of recent National Age Grade (NAG) candidates making senior debuts in forward Chloe Baltazar.

Baltazar is one of a block of Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers players entering the national side and has represented Hong Kong at U18 and U20s sevens level. She is joined in the squad by scrumhalf Jessica Ho Wai-on, one of the original wave of Tigers graduating from age grade to senior rugby in 2017, who earns her first sevens call-up of the season this weekend.

“The young girls bring bags of energy on and off the field, and they are still nowhere near their potential so it’s really exciting to watch them at this level. They all love giving their best to make Hong Kong and their families proud,” said Monaghan.

Hong Kong fan at the Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2019. Picture by Steven Howard of TravelNewsAsia.com Click to enlarge.

Monaghan complimented his newest cap Baltazar saying, “Chloe has transitioned well over the summer and played a strong role in the U20s team that won the Asian Series. She brings an edge in our contact tackles and some hard carries from her fifteens experience. She never takes a backward step and I’m pleased she is getting this chance, especially after how hard she worked this summer.”

Captain Melody Li leads the squad with Natasha Olson-Thorne and Nam Ka-man also featured, after successfully returning from injury and delivering impact in Korea. Their defensive skills will be needed with Hong Kong in a challenging group as second seeds in Pool B behind hosts China, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. China showed well to start the season, reaching the cup final in Korea before losing 19-5 to Japan. On home ground they enter as early favourites.

“We want a more consistent performance in both halves and to show our hunger and desire to improve on, and back up our strong performances from last week, while affording some new players a chance to show what they can do,” said Monaghan. “It is a competitive and hard working squad, which is good, because we have some challenging games against improving opponents, who exposed us in Korea when we did not work harder or smarter; we’re looking forward to righting some wrongs from the last tournament.”

Hong Kong Women’s Sevens Squad (13-woman, Huizhou, China, 14-15 Sept 2019): Melody Li Nim-yan (Captain), Natasha Olson-Thorne, Sham Wai-sum, Chloe Baltazar^, Jessica Ho Wai-on*, Au Yeung, Sin-yi; Poon Hoi-yan; Nam Ka-man, Chong Ka-yan, Stephanie Chan Chor-ki, Jessica Eden, Amber Tsang Wing-chi*, Agnes Tse Wing-kiu*

Hong Kong Men’s Sevens Squad (13-man, Huizhou, China, 14-15 Sept 2019): Max Woodward (Captain); Seb Brien*, Michael Coverdale, Jamie Hood, Lee Jones, Cado Lee Ka-to, Alex McQueen*, Raef Morrison*, Jack Neville, Ben Rimene*, Hugo Stiles, Russell Webb, Yiu Kam-shing.

^ First senior sevens cap; *Season debut.

Rugby pictures: Pictures from 2019 Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, 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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