Wed, 3 April 2019

HKRU Names 12-Man Squad for HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series Qualifiers

The Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) has named the 12-man squad that will compete in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series qualifiers, played as part of the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, from Friday to Sunday, 5-7 April, at the Hong Kong Stadium.

With a few senior players out injured, Hong Kong coach Paul John gave his men extra time to pass fit with a final test coming in a hit-out against Fiji on Saturday when John announced an initial group of 17 players.

After the efforts against Fiji and with one eye on Hong Kong this weekend and one on Hong Kong’s spot amongst the World Series squads in Singapore the week after, John has named the final 12 for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series Qualifiers.

Hong Kong in action against Germany in the 2018 Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens. Picture by Steven Howard of Click to enlarge.

Befitting the task at hand, it is an experienced group, despite having a few of Hong Kong’s next generation players whose experience belies their youth. That includes three of the five players who made their debut last year in Hong Kong including Russell Webb, Seb Brien and Jack Neville.

“There is lots of experience there, but also three of the younger guys, who are there entirely on form. It has been the most difficult squad for us to pick since I have arrived, because we have more strength in depth now and people have really been putting their hands up for spots,” said John.

The other two debutants from last year, Kane Boucaut and Max Denmark, both picked up injuries last weekend at the Borneo Sevens that have seen them ruled them out as a precautionary measure of Hong Kong. Squad captain Ben Rimene and forward Toby Fenn will also miss out this weekend.

Hong Kong in action at the 2018 Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens. Picture by Steven Howard of Click to enlarge.

It is a case of better safe than sorry, with Hong Kong’s upcoming competition calendar and the need to be in peak physical form for what promises to be another gruelling competition in the qualifier.

“We had an idea about who may be ready but wanted the run against Fiji just to finalise that thinking really and to give everyone a chance to come right. There were a few boys really close to being fit but we didn’t want to risk anything,” John said. “You know they could take a knock in the first game, which of course can still happen to any of the guys, and we are down to 11, so it was a bit of being safe and knowing there is another selection coming up for Singapore as well.”

John believes that the team learned an important lesson last year. “We were disappointed in our performance last year. The boys were, and the coaches were. I think we maybe played within ourselves too much last year, and with five guys on debut that is understandable. Now everyone is a year more experienced in that environment and, while it’s never easy on a stage like that and in a competition like the Qualifier, the boys want to express themselves more and play to their abilities. We want to give a positive accounting of ourselves.”

In the absence of Rimene, former captain Max Woodward will lead the squad, with another former captain in Jamie Hood also in the group. Woodward captained the team in Borneo in Rimene’s absence as well.

Nine of the 12 teams are returning from last year’s cutthroat qualifier competition, alongside Russia, relegated from the Series in favour of Japan in 2018.

Hong Kong are top seeds in Pool E along with Tonga, Zimbabwe, and Philippines. Russia will tangle with last year’s semi finalists Ireland in Pool F - with experienced competitors Uruguay and Jamaica in the mix as well. The remaining semi-finalists from 2018, Chile and Germany, face off in Pool G alongside Uganda and Cook Islands.

Hong Kong Men’s Sevens

Max WOODWARD (Captain); Sebastian BRIEN, Michael COVERDALE, Jamie HOOD, Lee JONES, Cado LEE Ka-to, Alex McQUEEN, Tom McQUEEN, Raef MORRISON, Jack NEVILLE, Russell WEBB, Salom YIU Kam-shing.

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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