Hong Kong Squads’ Build-up Continues in Margaret River

4 February, 2015

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The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union (HKRFU) has announced its men's and women's sevens teams to participate in the upcoming Margaret River Sevens (7-8 February 2015) in Australia.

The squad selections for both teams demonstrate a wider commitment to rotating players and exploring depth ahead of the Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens and Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Women's Rugby Sevens tournaments in March.

Also looming large on the calendar this season is a chance at the ultimate sevens prize, a spot at the 2016 Summer Olympics when rugby sevens will debut. But both teams remain highly aware of the importance of maintaining or bettering their standings in Asia, (the men are Asian sevens champions while the women are third in the region), a crucial factor for keeping rugby sevens' groundbreaking spot at the Hong Kong Sports Institute.

The 2015 Margaret River Sevens is the biggest in the tournament's history with 20 men's teams and six women's teams taking part. Playing as Hong Kong Dragons, the men will mark their second year of participation in 2015 while the women are making their tournament debut.

"The women's team for Margaret River is a developmental squad that has been selected in an effort to give the younger girls and some of the players who weren't selected for the final tournament on the Asian Series last fall in Beijing a bit of a go," said Women's Sevens head coach Anna Richards.

Coach Richards has left Royce Chan Leong-sze and Christy Cheng Ka Chi at home to give other players an opportunity to establish their leadership skills within the squad. "We want to see who will step up in the absence of our traditional captains in Royce and Christy," Richards commented.

Natasha Olson-Thorne, one of the team's most talented finishers, has been named captain for the tour while Adrienne Garvey, who made her debut last September in the Women's Sevens World Series qualifier, has been named vice captain.

Emmy Chan, Lindsay Varty, Aggie Poon Pak Yan, Lai Pou Fan and Amelie Seure, the captain of this season's HKRFU premiership league champions Valley Black, are among the more established faces in the team, which also features a core of young talent in Ivy Kwong Sau Yan, Nam Ka Man, Sham Wai Sum, Lee Tsz Ting and Cindy Yuen Lok Yee.

"The main focus for the year is of course the Olympics qualifier but maintaining our performance on the Asian series is right up there as those results are key to keeping us in the HKSI programme," said coach Richards, the former New Zealand rugby star who was named to the World Rugby Hall of Fame in 2014.

Preparations have been ongoing since the end of the women's series in October said Richards:

"The girls are working really hard and overall, the squad is looking a lot better skill-wise. We are seeing more of that come out in pressure scenarios like in tournament competition. We need those competitive environments to be able to progress and I'm especially pleased with the progress of some of our young girls like Cindy Yuen and Lee Tsz Ting."

"We have a good build-up planned and a busy schedule leading up to the Women's Sevens in March. We currently have 20 women's athletes in the elite athlete programme but effectively we're down to 17 as some players are continuing to recover from injury," added Richards.

The need to keep examining ways to increase those numbers inspired the first HKRFU and HKSI women's sevens athletes talent identification exercise, which proved an outstanding success, attracting more than 80 participants with rugby and other sporting backgrounds last month in Hong Kong.

With a similar goal of providing maximum opportunity for players to stake their claim to places for the major events in the 2015 campaign, the men's seven also features some relatively new faces for Margaret River.

After a strong tournament in Darwin last month, Chris Maize has been given another opportunity to demonstrate his full recovery from injury and push for a regular place. Two other players from Darwin, Tyler Spitz and Calvin Hunter, have also been selected for their second tour in the space of three weeks.

Squad veteran Ben Rimene has been tipped to help provide veteran leadership and will be joined by Charles Cheung Ho Ning, Adam Rolston, Andrew Bridle and Tomasi Lawa, all players with previous Hong Kong experience on the Asian circuit or at the National Games.

Three more of Hong Kong's Asian champion U20s Sevens side: co-captain Liam Owens, Matt Worley and Eric Kwok Pak-nga, are set to make their senior sevens squad debuts in Australia. Bradley Raper, winger for the 2015 HKRFU Premiership league champions Leighton Asia HKCC has also been selected for the tour in his first opportunity with the sevens squad.

"This is another fantastic opportunity to continue building depth in our programme. Having Calvin, Liam, Eric and Matt from our successful Under 20's campaign in our squad proves we have talent coming through. It is important that we give them as many opportunities as possible. It will be a big eye opener in terms of physicality and skills but this is why they are in the team and we need to expose them to this," said Kane Jury, who will lead the squad to Australia for the first time as senior coach.

"For Brad it's been a long time coming. He has been plagued with injuries and we were happy that he was available for selection. He has size and speed and I know he has been waiting a long time to show us what he can offer," added Jury.

As part of his role as team manager for Margaret River, HKRFU head of elite coach development Peter Drewett will mentor the coaching team in Australia as Hong Kong looks to develop its resources across all levels. HKRFU Referee Development Officer (Community) Patrick Kwok Tsz Kin is Hong Kong's attached referee for the tournament.