Veteran Squads Named for Last Tournament Ahead of Hong Kong Sevens

23 February, 2015

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The first cross-continental sevens competition organised by the Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU) – the Borneo Sevens – will offer Hong Kong men's and women's sevens coaches Gareth Baber and Anna Richards another opportunity to fine-tune their squads before the upcoming Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong men's and women's sevens tournaments in March.

2015 is a crucial year for Hong Kong's sevens teams - apart from the men having a chance to qualify for core team status at the Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, both teams will be preparing to contest the Asian Olympic qualifiers in November.

With all eyes on this year's qualification campaign for the debut of Rugby Sevens at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Unions need more and more competitive opportunities against teams from outside of their region.ARFU has responded to this demand with its first cross-regional competition with teams from the Federation of Oceania Rugby Unions (FORU) involved in Borneo.

"This is the first time we are doing something like this, both for men and women, and we believe this initiative will help lift the performance levels of Asian teams," said Trevor Gregory, ARFU president.

Coach Baber and the men's squad face an all-important bid to qualify as a core team on the HSBC Sevens World Series in the 12-team international qualifier played as part of the Hong Kong Sevens (27-29 March).

Baber, head coach of the rugby sevens programme at Hong Kong Sports Institute, will savour the chance of coming up against teams like Tonga and Papua New Guinea that Hong Kong could potentially face next month at the Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens. Both teams are bound to bring a different style and physicality to what Asian opponents offer.

Both Baber and Richards have settled on squads with a more veteran look than those previously sent to warm-up tournaments earlier this year in Darwin and Margaret River, Australia.

"I don't think I will stray too far away from the 17 players we used last season as we obviously will be looking for continuity in the squad," Baber said.

Hong Kong led by Jamie Hood were crowned Asian sevens champions while they also won the silver medal at the Asian Games in Incheon and Baber is set to draw from this talent pool once again.

"But what has happened recently is that we have increased the depth in the squad when we went down to the Margaret River Sevens (in Australia) and these new players have started to show me they can step up over the next 12 months," Baber added.

Young guns like Richard Lewis and Calvin Hunter have also come into the picture this season figuring in the squads to the Darwin and Margaret River Sevens, as has Chris Maize, returning from injury. With this year being crucial Hong Kong will be glad that they have increased depth.

Baber has gone with a veteran squad for Borneo, selecting 11 of the squad that won last year's Asian Sevens Series in the final event of the season in Beijing. Jamie Hood will captain the squad in Borneo with sevens mainstays Rowan Varty, Nick Hewson, Lee Jones, Alex and Tom McQueen and Salom Yiu Kam Shing also selected.

Hong Kong's young guns of the past few years are also prominently featured with Jack Capon, Michael Coverdale, Max Woodward and Cado Lee Ka To given the chance to stake their claim in Malaysia. Chris Maize continues his strong return from an injury absence earning his third tour of the year after figuring prominently in the two Australian tournaments.

The three-day Borneo Sevens – 27 February to 1 March – will give Baber the chance to test his team against the physical South Pacific Islanders, Tonga and Papua New Guinea, as well as Asian threats Sri Lanka, China and Singapore in the men's competition.

"This is our last tournament before the Hong Kong Sevens. After this we will have some hit-outs against Shandong (province) and Japan who will be coming down early (for the Hong Kong Sevens). I will be using all these games to generate as much competition as we can within the group," Baber said.

The Hong Kong women's team will also figure in a cross regional competition in Borneo when they take on Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Thailand and a select team from Melbourne. China, Japan and Malaysia are also in Hong Kong's pool.

Hong Kong women's sevens coach Anna Richards commented on the upcoming tournament saying, "Given we haven't had a tournament since October it was important to give all of the squad members a run in the first two events of the year leading into the Hong Kong Sevens."

Hong Kong who won on debut in Margaret River earlier this month will be hoping to sustain their momentum in Malaysia. "The Margaret River Squad gave us a great start to the year and now it is up to this squad to maintain that momentum," said Richards.

The inclusion of inspirational co-captains Royce Chan Leong Sze and Christy Cheng Ka Chi will assist their efforts. Both were left home from the earlier tour to Australia to provide an opportunity to develop leadership amongst the rest of the squad.

The two are amongst four new inclusions for Borneo from Margaret River with veteran forward Christine Gordon and Cheng Tsz Ting also selected.

"The girls who missed out on Margaret River needed to come in because we wanted them to have a tournament. We have a good core of girls but are down a bit in our numbers with injuries. Thankfully the younger girls did well in Margaret River and it shows that they can challenge in the next 12 months," said Richards.

Coach Richards has kept faith with the remainder of the team from Margaret River with Amelie Seure and Adrienne Garvey providing strength up front while Lai Pou Fan, Lindsay Varty, Sham Wai Sum and Yuen Lok Yee have all been selected for their second tour of the season.Hong Kong's strike force of Natasha Olson-Thorne and Aggie Poon Pak Yan are also named to the squad.

"Playing teams with a different style in Borneo will be good for us. Our focus in Borneo will be purely on our own performance, on adding to our experience and readiness for the Hong Kong Sevens, which is our primary event for this quarter of the year. Borneo is a key part of the lead-in to that and it gives all of the players another opportunity to show us how much they have developed," said Richards.

"Having said that none of the players are out of the framework for Hong Kong and we will take advantage of every competitive opportunity we have until we name the final side next month," concluded Richards.

Hong Kong Men's Sevens squad for Borneo:

Jamie HOOD (Captain), Rowan VARTY, Nick HEWSON, Jack CAPON, Chris MAIZE, Salom YIU Kam Shing, Cado LEE Ka To, Alex McQueen, Tom McQueen, Max WOODWARD, Michael COVERDALE, Lee JONES.

Hong Kong Women's Sevens squad for Borneo:

Royce CHAN Leong Sze (co-captain), Christy CHENG Ka Chi (co-captain), Amelie SEURE, Adrienne GARVEY, CHENG Tsz Ting, Christine GORDON, LAI Pou Fan, Lindsay VARTY, Natasha OLSON-THORNE, POON Pak Yan, SHAM Wai Sum, YUEN Lok Yee.

Borneo Sevens Schedules (Fri/Sat):

Women's schedule:

Friday


HK v Melbourne

13.20


HK v Thailand

18.40


Saturday


HK v Samoa

11.30


HK v PNG

16.50





Men's schedule:

Friday


HK v Singapore

14.40


HK v Tonga

18.00


Saturday


HK v Sri Lanka

10.50


HK v China

15.50


HK v PNG

19.10