21 Aug 2015

The Hong Kong Rugby Union National Women's Sevens squad has departed for this weekend's World Rugby Women's Sevens Series qualifier tournament in Dublin, Ireland.

The 12-team international qualifier will be played on 22 and 23 August. The 12 teams taking part are Brazil, China, Colombia, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Netherlands, Samoa, South Africa and Wales. China and South Africa, the 11th and 12th teams respectively on the standings last season, will be fighting to resume their places on the Women's Sevens Series after being relegated.

The Cup winner and runners-up in Dublin will earn automatic berths on the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series 2015/16. The qualifiers will join champions New Zealand, Canada, Australia, England, USA, France, Russia, Fiji and Spain on the upcoming circuit.

Hong Kong has been slotted into a challenging group as the third seeds in Pool C behind South Africa and the hosts Ireland. Mexico is the fourth seed in the pool. South Africa were relegated from last year's Series after finishing in 12th place.

HKRU women's sevens head coach Anna Richards has selected her first choice squad for the tournament with all players coming from the ranks of the senior women's professional athletes in the Rugby Sevens programme at the Hong Kong Sports Institute.

Eleven of the squad are also veterans of the team selected for the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Women's Rugby Sevens last March, with the only omission Adrienne Garvey who is recovering from a slight injury.

The highly experienced squad will be captained by forward Royce Chan Leong Sze with Christy Cheng Ka Chi as vice captain.

Amelie Seure and Christine Gordon will help provide strength up front against the expected larger opponents while Natasha Olson-Thorne and speedster Aggie Poon Pak Yan will again provide some of the strike force outside.

Hong Kong Women's Sevens coach Mark Komar said, "The team has settled in very well. The facilities are fantastic and we have had some good training sessions over the past few days."

The team is taking advantage of the preparation period to analyze its competition. "We've had a look at both South Africa and Ireland. The Irish have just come off playing in the European series against some tough opposition while South Africa have experienced life in the World Series over the past season. Both teams look impressive but the girls are feeling confident and we have been able to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of our top opposition in the pool. We also have to be aware that we can't take Mexico lightly," added Komar.

Qualifying for the Series would give Hong Kong a huge boost ahead of the qualification campaign for the 2016 Rio Olympics, which concludes in November 2015. The winner of the two-tournament Asia Rugby Olympic qualification series will determine the region's sole entry to the 2016 Games.
A global repechage for top teams not advancing directly from regional qualifiers will also be held next June to determine the 12th and final team spot in Rio, a tournament where Series experience could prove to be a decisive factor.

Hong Kong will also rub shoulders with some of its regional rivals in Ireland as Japan and China will also take the pitch, potentially setting up some early showdowns on day two that could help inform the results on this year's Asia Rugby Sevens Series which starts in September.

The tournament will be live streamed by the Irish Rugby Football Union. The Women's Sevens Series Qualifier can be viewed at:
Hong Kong Women's Sevens Squad Women's Sevens Series Match Schedule:
Day I: Saturday 22 August 2015 (All times are Hong Kong Time)
Match 5 South Africa v Hong Kong - 19.28
Match 11 Ireland v Hong Kong - 22.22
Match 17 Hong Kong v Mexico - 01.06 (Sun. 08/23)

Following the completion of day one, the top eight teams will advance to the cup quarter finals while the bottom placed four teams will take part in the Bowl competition.

HKRU Women's VII Squad
Women's Sevens Series Qualifiers
Royce CHAN Leong Sze (C)
Christy CHENG Ka Chi (VC)
Candy CHENG Tsz Ting
Christine GORDON
Ivy KWONG Sau Yan
LAI Pou Fan
NAM Ka Man
Aggie POON Pak Yan
Amelie SEURE
SHAM Wai Sum
Lindsay VARTY

Anna RICHARDS (Head Coach)
Mark KOMAR (Coach)
Dannii CHEUNG Tan Li (Team Manager)