[Hong Kong, 20 April 2023]: The Hong Kong Rugby Union has announced the women’s sevens squad set to compete in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series (20-22 April) in Stellenbosch, South Africa (20-22 April and 28-30 April).
The Series is part of the qualification process for a spot on the seven-leg HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in 2024 and is played across two combined (men’s and women’s).
Unlike the men’s competition, the winner of the women’s two-tournament Series will advance directly to the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series as one of 12 teams on the international circuit.
Hong Kong Sevens head coach Paul John announced a veteran 13-woman squad for the opening tournament, including 10 of the team that played in the Cathay/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens for the first time ever earlier this month.
The team is now excited to be making a second debut with their first ever qualification for the Challenger Series.
“Our preparation has been good this week. The girls are a bit nervous and excited at the same time, but it is great to have both of our men’s and women’s programs competing in the Challenger Series for the first time,” said John.
The challenge is to master their emotions now according to John.
“We are looking forward to picking up from where we left off at the Hong Kong Sevens and it is important for us to show that progression now. We have to play without hesitation. It’s going to be challenging but the girls are in a good space and ready to get stuck into it,” John said from South Africa.
Natasha Olson-Thorne and Melody Li Nim-yan will co-captain the opening tournament, with senior players Nam Ka-man, Jess Ho Wai-on, Chloe Chan, Maggie Au Yeung Sin-yi, and Stephanie Chan Chor-ki all retained. Also returning from the Hong Kong tournament are Agnes Tse Wing-kiu, Rosie Wright and Micayla Baltazar.
Baltazar is joined by her sister Chloe, and by another pair of siblings in Gabriella and Georgia Rivers for the opener in Stellenbosch. It is the first time that two pairs of siblings have featured in a Hong Kong women’s squad and John is looking forward to what they will add.
“Both of the Rivers sisters have been playing at university in Australia and it is fantastic to see them maintain that interest in representing Hong Kong. They bring good physicality to the set-up, while Micayla and Chloe have been training with the squad for a while now. Just like the rest of the team they have an opportunity now to express themselves and show what they can do at this level,” said John.
John plans to rotate a number of players in the coming weeks with an eye on competing well both in South Africa and at the ultimate goal, the Asian Games in September.
“We hope to be able to use quite a few players across the next few weeks. In recent years the girls have not had the same opportunities to compete internationally as the men, so tournaments like this and Hong Kong earlier this month are really essential for our build-up to the Asian Games.
“The more opportunities we get at this level the better prepared we will be to handle the pressure moments and situations that are part of the Asian Games. This is what we train for, so having this experience and game time is priceless. We can only learn from this,” John added.
Hong Kong are grouped with Colombia, Paraguay and Poland in Pool D. Their first game is tomorrow at 17.22 against Colombia before facing Poland at 20.46. They will face Paraguay at 15.22 on Friday to conclude pool play.
“We have played Colombia in the repechage previously and they have also played in World Series tournaments this year. Poland has some strong players and quite a bit of experience playing on the Series and in the feeder tournaments in Europe. Paraguay is a bit of an unknown so we really have to focus on our own performance at the end of the day.
“We showed glimpses of how we can play in Hong Kong - winning our kick-offs, getting our defence right, and sticking tackles when we needed them. We made more tackles in Hong Kong than we have done previously and it needs to be the same now. We just need to go for it,” John exhorted.
Hong Kong, China Women’s Sevens Travel Squad for HSBC World Rugby Challenger Series (April 2023):
Natasha OLSON-THORNE (Co-Capt); Melody LI Nim-yan (Co-Capt.); Maggie AU YEUNG Sin-Yi; Micayla BALTAZAR; Chloe BALTAZAR; Chloe CHAN; CHAN Chor-ki, Stephanie; Jessica HO Wai-on; NAM Ka-man; Gabriella RIVERS; Georgia RIVERS; TSE Wing-kiu, Agnes; Rosanna WRIGHT.