Five on debut for Hong Kong in World Rugby Women’s Sevens Qualifier
The Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) today announced the final squad to play in next week’s World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series qualifier.
Coach Kevin West has selected a squad that blends experience and enthusiasm with five players set to debut under the bright lights.
The newcomers are Stephanie Chan Chor-ki, Vivian Poon Hoi-yan, Amber Tsang Wing-chi, Agnes Chan Tsz-Ching and Agnes Tse Wing-kui.
An experienced core surrounds them, with captain and vice captain Christy Cheng Ka-chi and Natasha Olson-Thorne both marking their eighth Hong Kong Women’s Rugby Sevens appearance.
Ivy Kwong, Sham Wai-sum and Colleen Tjosvold each mark their sixth Hong Kong tournament, while Nam Ka-man earns a fifth April call-up and Melody Li will make her third appearance.
“It’s a good group,” said West.
“It’s a real mix of experience and youth, which is what we’ve been trying to do. There are five making their Hong Kong debuts, but we’ve been lucky because they’ve already had tournaments in Fiji and Borneo. They all have some tournament experience - not of the level of Hong Kong maybe, but there’s only one way to find that out isn’t there?” added West.
Four of the five have been in the programme at the Hong Kong Sports Institute for a while and will be looking to make an impact next week.
“Agnes Chan was one of our great finds at the fifteens world cup and she has just kicked on since then; it’s great to have her in. Vivian, Amber and Stephanie all give us a degree of pace, they make the squad slightly pacier throughout the park, rather than having one or two fliers. All of them play as if they’ve got nothing to lose, which is great,” said West.
The debuts are partially injury-forced, (after the loss of wings Chong Ka-yan and Aggie Poon Pak-yan and fly half Lee Tsz-ting in the build-up), but also reflect the drive to widen the playing base in the build up to the Asian Games this summer.
“We have had to look at things after losing some of our major strike threats in Aggie and Ka-yan, and a lot of experience in BB, but that’s the nature of the sport - with the newcomers we are well covered,” said West.
Perhaps most indicative of this drive to blood more players at top level ahead of the Asiad is the selection of Agnes Tse, who only joined the squad this month.
“Agnes has been on our radar,” said West.
“I coached her in our junior development fifteens programme and she has just graduated into the national team. Because of our injury situation, we brought her in to the group as a late addition.
“We particularly needed to cover that outside back area, the centre/wing area, which kept some of the others from making the squad at the end of the day, but Agnes has obviously done really well. She has earned her selection.
“She’s tough and she has speed. Her job for us is to have a go, to take the line on. She’s good in the tackle and quite physical.
“She’s settled in really well and done brilliantly really. She is a level, mature girl, who I’m sure will just put her head down, take it all in stride and work hard,” said West.
Hong Kong open the tournament against Brazil (11.36), before playing more familiar foes in China (13.48) and Kazakhstan (16.22).
“Like just about every team we will be playing they’re bigger than us,” West said of the Brazilians, who beat World Series side and Asian champions Japan twice en route to a ninth-place finish in Rio.
“They also have a bit of pace. Actually there are a lot of similarities in the style of play throughout the group, with China and Kazakhstan also having a real physical element. We are prepared for that,” said West.
With a chance to play on the Stadium pitch during Hong Kong Sevens weekend - and an even more meaningful spot on the World Series up for grabs - the team is focussing heavily on the job at hand, but West is even more excited at the opportunities next week’s qualifier will create for Hong Kong down the line.
“We are taking Hong Kong very seriously. It is our home tournament, so there is both a need and some pressure for us to perform, but we are very aware that our major goal this year is the Asian Games.
“So, for these girls to get this sort of tournament under their belts, against some of the world’s best and some of the competition we will play at the Games will hold us in good stead regardless of anything else,” said West.
The action begins at So Kon Po, directly across from the Hong Kong Stadium, on Thursday, 5 April.After the pool stages, the quarterfinalists (top eight) of the 12-team international competition will move to the Stadium on Friday, 6 April, as part of the opening day’s action at the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.The winner of the qualifier receives an automatic berth on next season’s World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series.
Hong Kong Women’s Sevens Squad – World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series Qualifier 2018 :
Christy CHENG Ka-chi (Captain), Natasha OLSON-THORNE (Vice Captain), Agnes CHAN Tsz-Ching*, Stephanie CHAN Chor-ki*, Ivy KWONG Sau-yan, Melody LI Nim-yan, NAM Ka-man, Vivian POON Hoi-yan*, SHAM Wai-sum, Colleen TJOSVOLD, Amber TSANG Wing-chi*, Agnes TSE Wing-kiu*.
* Hong Kong Women’s Rugby Sevens / World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series Qualifier debut