Five on debut for Hong Kong Men’s Seven in World Rugby Sevens Qualifier at Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2018

03 April 2018

The Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) today announced the final squad to play in the World Rugby Sevens Series Qualifier, held as part of the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens (6-8 April).

Hong Kong coach Paul John hailed the balance in his squad saying, “We had a group that played out in Borneo and we had a group in Shandong and we thought that there were three or four boys who did really well in that Shandong squad. We wanted to give them an opportunity in our hit out against Fiji this past weekend.

“As expected, all of the boys did really well against Fiji and it was a really good exercise for us. We took a while to deliberate over a few tough choices but overall we wanted the balance that we have in this final squad.

“In looking at the overall composition of the squad and who covers what positions and everything – sort of considering if we had to move people about over the weekend, everyone involved in the selection felt that this was the most balanced squad to go with,” John added.

John has selected five players to make their Hong Kong Sevens debuts with U20s standout Max Denmark joining Russell Webb as the two newest faces included in the final group.

“Russell was injured out in Fiji but was playing well up to that point. He has been training well since then and had a decent tournament in Borneo. He has been able to get sevens fit now and what Russell offers is that he is another person that can play a couple of positions for us. He can obviously play 10 and can cover 9 and he kicked off really well both in Fiji and out in Borneo. He has added a few different things to his game really,” said John.

Denmark also brings something unique to the pitch according to John.

“Max has chosen to stay here for a few years and play for Hong Kong and he has gotten fitter and fitter I think in that time. He is a good option for us to cover on the wing and that wide channel. He is a quick young kid and has worked really hard and deserves his spot too,” John added.

Sebastian Brien, Jack Neville and Kane Boucaut will also make their Hong Kong Sevens debuts after figuring prominently in the Hong Kong squad over the last year.

“Those three have really developed quickly. The more tournaments they have played together the more comfortable they look in the environment. They have been adding something to the squad since coming in and have been very consistent in our selection really since after the Hong Kong Sevens last year,” said John

He expects that trend to continue:“Basically, just to continue playing the way they are playing and to express themselves and offer us what they have been offering throughout the Asian Series.

“They have all got more experience now and played more sevens. They have trained well and been threats in attack for us if you like in Asia and out in Fiji and everything. It is just for them to now bring that performance to an exciting environment at the Hong Kong Sevens,” said Paul.

Captain Ben Rimene leads the squad, which also features a host of experienced campaigners like Salom Yiu Kam-shing – marking his ninth Hong Kong Sevens, while Jamie Hood will make his eighth tournament appearance.

Scrumhalf Lee Ka-to, who returned from playing professionally in Japan this season, marks his fifth tournament, while gritty forwards Michael Coverdale and Chris Maize will each be making their fourth Hong Kong Sevens appearance, with fellow grunt Toby Fenn marking his third tournament.

“Ben had a really good end to the 15s season. He has trained hard and is a good leader within the group and him and Hoodie [Jamie Hood] are both decision makers and leaders within the environment. It has been successful for us so far and we wanted to continue that.

“Hopefully, all of the boys will express themselves and do themselves justice on the weekend,” John added.

Hong Kong were handed a tough draw grouped in Pool F with Papua New Guinea, who have played twice on the Series already this season in Sydney and Hamilton; last year’s tournament runners-up, Germany, and another highly experienced sevens outfit in Zimbabwe, the hometown heroes will have their work cut out for them to advance.

Hong Kong will open the tournament in a huge clash with Germany at 13.26 on Friday with a second match later that afternoon against Papua New Guinea (16.50) before their final pool game on Saturday morning against Zimbabwe (10.28).

“The pool stages are all we’re focused on now because it’s a very difficult group. We are more about the first two opponents on Friday and our preparations are focusing on making sure we are comfortable and preparing for what we think that Papua New Guinea and Germany will bring us on day one. We can watch Zimbabwe play two games before we see where we are in that third game really,” said John.

Hong Kong Men’s Sevens Squad – World Rugby Sevens Series Qualifier 2018:

Ben RIMENE (Captain), Salom YIU Kam-shing, Jamie HOOD, Cado LEE Ka-to, Michael COVERDALE, Chris MAIZE, Toby FENN, Kane BOUCAUT*, Jack NEVILLE*, Sebastien BRIEN*, Russell WEBB*, Max DENMARK*.

* Hong Kong Sevens / World Rugby Sevens Series Qualifier debut