Photo credit: HKRU
Both Hong Kong Men’s and Women’s national sevens squads will take part in the Borneo Sevens (16-18 March), in preparation for the upcoming World Rugby Sevens Series Qualifier tournaments that are part of the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.
The women are the second seeds in Group A, facing off against the likes of Asian competitors Thailand, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Malaysia in the eight-team competition.
On the other hand, the men are top seeds in Group C, alongside Kiwi side Mellowpuff Trust Barbarians and Malaysian outfits ATM and Sabah Sukma.
They will be made up mostly of familiar faces such as captain Ben Rimene, Jamie Hood, Cado Lee Ka-to, although Max Denmark and Russ Webb have been elevated from the U-20s to the senior squad.
The ladies enter Borneo with some momentum, especially after an emphatic performance that saw them reach the final of the Coral Coast Sevens women’s tournament in Fiji in January.
“They have a lot of confidence after reaching the final in Fiji and they have trained really well since then. This weekend will be a good indicator of where they are at,” said Hong Kong Sevens coach Paul John.
Three players have been left out of the squad due to this weekend’s university tournament, including newly-crowned Champions Gai Wu Falcons’ lynchpins Aggie Poon Pak-yan and fly-half BB Lee Tsz-ting. Also out of this weekend’s action is Tai Po Dragons’ Agnes Chan.
Photo credit: Asia Rugby
Fortunately, John and interim women’s coach Kevin West still have a strong group to choose from, with captain Christy Cheng Ka-chi and vice captain Natasha Olson-Thorne joining regulars Nam Ka-man, Ivy Kwong Sau-yan, Colleen Tjosvold, Sham Wai-Sum and Chong Ka-yan on tour.
That experienced core is rounded out by up and comers Stephanie Chan Chor-ki, Cindy Au Yeung, Sin-yi as well as Amber Tsang Wing-chi and Poon Hoi-yan, who both made their senior sevens debuts in Fiji.
Melody Li Nim-yan, who is returning to form after a lengthy injury lay-off, will make her first sevens appearance of the year in Malaysia.
“It is another important competitive opportunity for the squad, which is what we wanted after last year’s build-up – to play in as many tournaments as we can ahead of Hong Kong," said John.
"We are focusing on improving our decision-making under pressure and playing more to what we see in front of us."
“Because we don’t play as many tournaments as other countries, we need to try and replicate that game type decision-making as closely as possible in training, although you are never going to get there without playing, which is why opportunities like Borneo are so important,” he added.