Expanded squads announced for World Rugby Men’s & Women’s Sevens Series Qualifiers

24 March 2018

The Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) today announced the expanded squads for selection of the national sevens teams to compete in the Men’s and Women’s World Rugby Sevens Series qualifiers, played as part of the upcoming Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens (6-8 April).

The men’s qualifier will be played from Friday-Sunday, 6-8 April, inside the Hong Kong Stadium while for the first time in 2018, the HKRU will host the full second day of the Women’s Qualifier inside the stadium, starting from the cup quarterfinals onwards at 10.30 on Friday, 6 April. The opening day of the tournament will be held at SoKon Po across from the Hong Kong Stadium.

Much is at stake 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 2019.

“On behalf of the Hong Kong Rugby Union, I congratulate all of the players who have advanced to the final stages of selection. Our men’s and women’s sevens teams are preparing for another crack at qualifying for the World Series and we wish them all the best of luck in the final stages of selection,” said Mr Robbie McRobbie, CEO of the HKRU.

“All of the players in the wider squads represent Hong Kong with grace and sportsmanship – demonstrating once again the positive values of Rugby and helping to set a worthy lesson for youth across Hong Kongand are to be congratulated on their performance,” McRobbie added.

“Alongside our sponsorship of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, HSBC is proud to be a key sponsor of the Hong Kong team. Over the past few years, we have seen Rugby Sevens go from strength to strength and the Hong Kong Sevens has played a crucial role in this growth. The Hong Kong Sevens provides the perfect platform for the sport and is something the local community should be incredibly proud of,” said Ms Leanne Cutts, Group Head of Marketing, HSBC.

“HSBC shares this pride and excitement and that’s why it is so important we all get behind this squad as they take on the rest of the world in a bid to become the newest team on the global circuit. We wish all of the team the very best of luck with the tournament,” Cutts added.

For the first time this year, the quarterfinals, semi finals and cup 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.

Last year Hong Kong missed out on the quarterfinal stages, but have reached the semi finals on the previous two women’s sevenstournamentshere, giving them hopes of making their first appearance inside the Stadium over the Hong Kong Sevens weekend.

This year the women’s squad has benefited from a more intensive build-up, with the team having reached the final on their debut at the Coral Coast Sevens in Fiji and won the cup at last weekend’s Borneo Sevens.

“It’s one of the girls’ big dreams to play at the Stadium during the Hong Kong Sevens,” said coachKevin West.

“It’s a massive carrot for them. Obviously it’ll be tough to do, but we have a bit of momentum behind us and if we can be consistent over the two days, it’s achievable.

“We were able to replicate tournament conditions against some quality opposition in Fiji and Borneo, which is incredibly important before a tournament like the Qualifier, but, most importantly, we were able to get our emerging players some significant game-time, which is adding to the competition for places in the squad,” West said.

The expanded squad includeseight potential Hong Kong tournament debutants including Stephanie Chan, Poon Hoi-yan, Jessica Ho, Abigail Chan, Chan Tsz-ting, Maggie Au Yeung,MakHo-yeeand Amber Tsang.

West will also have an experienced cadre of sevens athletes to draw from,including Borneo Sevens captain and vice captain, Christy Cheng Ka-chi and Natasha Olson-Thorne, Candy Cheng Tsz-ting, who marked her tenth Hong Kong Women’s Sevens in 2017, Ivy Kwong, Colleen Tjosvold, Nam Ka-Man and the returning Melody Li.

Hong Kong has drawn a tough pool for the Qualifier with 2016 Olympic participants Brazil and Asian powerhouses China and Kazakhstan in the group.

The final women’s squad will be announced prior to the start of the 12-team international qualifier on 5 April.

Men’s Seven face tough Pool challenge

The men are preparing for another run at promotion to the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series but the challenge continues to grow as more and more nations pump ample resources into the seven-a-side code after its debut as an Olympic sport in 2016.

Hong Kong hasbeen drawn in a difficult pool based on last year’s qualifier results,with Papua New Guinea, Germany, and Zimbabwe all in group F.

Germany and Papua New Guinea featured prominently in last year’s Qualifier. Germany beat Hong Kong in the pool stages, 14-7,en route to reaching the final, while Papua New Guinea advanced to thesemi finalstagebefore losing to eventual winners Spain.

“It is a tough group,” confirmed Hong Kong coach Paul John.

“We went to Germany pre-season and we remember what happened when we met them here last year, so we have a lot of respect for them. Papua New Guinea have a lot of experience, and Zimbabwe have been on the World Series before.

“The quality of the teams is getting higher and higher every year, and it’s up to us to raise our game and keep up,” John added.

With the men’s team following up their appearances in Fiji and Borneo with a training camp with China in Shandong this weekend, John has announced an initial squad of 15 players. The group will be whittled down ahead of the tournament to a final 12, along with a nominated injury reserve.

The entire squad that reached the cup semi final in Borneo has been included in the expanded list along with the squad selected for this weekend’s training camp in Shandong.

The group includes a raft of recent U20s graduates including Max Denmark, Paul Altier, MakKwai-chung, Alessandro Nardoni, and Jason Jeyam – who made his Hong Kong Sevens debut last year.

Last year’s finds of the Asian Series, Jack Neville, Kane Boucaut and SebBrien, have all continued to advance their claims for Hong Kong Sevens debuts with solid performances in the build-up campaign.

In total the expanded squad features nine potential debutants, including Russell Webb who marked his senior sevens squad debut earlier this year in Fiji.

Veterans SalomYiu, Ben Rimene, Cado Lee, Mike Coverdale, Chris Maize and Toby Fenn are all likely to anchor the squad although this will be the first time in a dozen years that Rowan Varty, Hong Kong’s most capped sevens representative, will miss out on the Sevens as he continues to focus on his career after rugby as a solicitor.

Hong Kong Women’s Seven (Expanded Squad):

Maggie AU YEUNG Sin-yee*, Abigail CHAN*, Agnes CHAN Tsz-Ching*, Stephanie CHAN*,Candy CHENG Tsz-ting, Christy CHENG Ka-chi,Jessica HO Wai-On*, Ivy KWONG Sau-yan, Melody LI Nim-yan, MAK Ho-yee*, NAM Ka-man, Natasha OLSON-THORNE, POON Hoi-yan*, POON Pak-yan, SHAM Wai-sum, Colleen TJOSVOLD, Amber TSANG*.

*Potential Hong Kong Women’s Rugby Sevens / World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series Qualifier debut

Hong Kong Men’s Seven (Expanded Squad):

Paul ALTIER*, Kane BOUCAUT*, Sebastian BRIEN*, Michael COVERDALE, Max DENMARK*, Toby FENN, Liam HERBERT*, Jamie HOOD, Jason JEYAM, Cado LEE Ka-to, Chris MAIZE, MAK Kwai-chung*, Alessandro NARDONI*, Jack NEVILLE*, Ben RIMENE, Russell WEBB*, Salom YIU Kam-shing.

*Potential Hong Kong Sevens debut