HONG KONG MEN’S SEVEN READY FOR CRUCIAL QUALIFIERS IN DUBAI

18 Nov 2021


The Hong Kong Rugby Union’s men’s sevens squad are set to take part in an omnibus Asia Rugby Sevens Series event on Friday and Saturday in Dubai. 

Due to the impact of continuing Covid travel restrictions, this event will stand in as the Asian qualifiers for the Rugby World Cup Sevens next year in South Africa. The final standings will also determine seeding for next year’s Asian Games. 

Those factors make it a crucial outing for Hong Kong, the defending Asian Games gold medallists.  The HKRU have also qualified for every Rugby World Cup Sevens since the tournament’s inception in 1993, and remain the only international rugby union to have hosted the short-form world championships twice (1997, 2005).

Given the stakes, the squad selected by coach Paul John and the management team features most of Hong Kong’s first choice sevens exponents, and includes 11 of the 13-man travel squad selected for the two-legs in Canada. 

Salom Yiu Kam-shing comes back into the fold after missing out on Hong Kong’s last tournaments in Canada in September. 

The group is led by skipper Max Woodward who marks his 35th tournament in Dubai, with ever-present forward Michael Coverdale and Seb Brien, Callum McCullough and Pierce Mackinlay-West likely to play up front. 

Two of Hong Kong’s top strikemen are also included in Liam Herbert and Max Denmark, both of whom showed their class as finishers in Canada.  Herbert was named the DHL Impact Player of the tournament in Edmonton and notched 10 tries over the two tournaments. 

Russell Webb will mastermind the attack, partnering with Lee Ka-to at scrumhalf while Hugo Stiles and Harry Sayers add more weapons out wide.

Hong Kong will need them after being drawn in a tough pool with veteran Asian series squads from the Philippines and Malaysia and South Korea, in their first meeting since Korea pipped Hong Kong for a spot at the 2020 Olympics. 

The other bracket sees rivals Japan top a group with China, Sri Lanka and the hosts UAE.

“It’s difficult to know exactly what the other teams will bring, but we have to respect all opposition and be fully prepared with our own game,” said head sevens coach Paul John.

 

John will at least have the advantage of a settled squad after a competitive outing in North America just a few weeks back, and further build-up on the ground after the squad were removed from Premiership action to avoid injury in recent weeks.

“The squad has trained well over the last few weeks and we had some very competitive trial games in Hong Kong last week. It was good to see the boys play against one another and get some sevens specific games under their belts.”  

As usual, John is relishing a tough pool and a big game to get the side into things early on Friday. 

The match with Korea will open the action at 09.58 (Hong Kong time) on Friday, 19 November, with Hong Kong facing Malaysia at 13.30 and Philippines at 16.40.

“It is important that we are ready for Friday as we play Korea first. They are always tight games, as are the games against Philippines, and Malaysia are always capable of making it difficult.  

“We reached a level in Canada that we were pleased with; we have to repeat that now to succeed in this one off tournament,” John added. 

HONG KONG MEN’S SEVENS

Max Woodward (Capt), Seb Brien, Michael Coverdale, Max Denmark, Liam Herbert, Cado Lee Ka-to, Pierce Mackinlay-West, Callum McCullough, Harry Sayers, Hugo Stiles, Russell Webb, Salom Yiu Kam-shing.   

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