YOUNG GUNS JOIN WOMEN’S SEVEN FOR CRUCIAL ASIAN SERIES EVENT IN DUBAI

18 Nov 2021


The Hong Kong Rugby Union’s women’s seven is in Dubai for the single-event Asia Rugby Sevens Series (19-20 Nov.). The tournament serves as a Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022 qualifier, (the top two advance to the championships), and a seeding event for next year’s Asian Games.

Hong Kong are in a tough pool with China, Malaysia and Sri Lanka, but coach Iain Monaghan is relishing the opportunity to compete again, saying, “It’s a great chance to see how we go against the seventh best team at the Olympics in China. If we advance, it looks like crossing over with Japan or Kazakhstan so it will be a great test and we have to be at our best.”

Japan, Kazakhstan, Thailand and the Philippines are in the other bracket.

Monaghan is confident his squad is ready to achieve: “This is the strongest group to represent Hong Kong in this tournament, and the group we feel best expresses our ambitions to be the fastest team in Asia,” he said, offering high praise for a group with three new caps in Sabay Lynam and Gabriella Rivers from DAC Kowloon, and Natixis Hong Kong Football Club’s Rosie Wright, sibling of Hong Kong sevens stalwart Mark Wright.

Safe hands are up and down the squad, of course, with Kroll USRC Tigers putting five players into the final group, including co-captain Natasha Olson-Thorne, Chong Ka-yan, Nam Ka-man, Maggie Au-yeung Sin-yi and Hui Manling. Gai Wu hooker Melody Li Nim-yan skippers with Olson-Thorne, while Jessica Eden and Chloe Chan both come into the group from Societe Generale Valley.

“Tash [Olson-thorne] will mark her 40th cap, while Mel [Li] and a few others like Nam Ka-man are around 25-30, with a few more in the 10s, so there is a good balance.”

“We all saw what Tash is capable of as she made team of the tournament in Monaco. We know her capabilities, but we’ve challenged her to play in other positions to keep her engaged and develop other parts of her game, and she has; she’s strong in the middle but now we have the luxury to play her at different spots.”

Eden earns her first selection in two seasons and Monaghan welcomed her inclusion: “She’s excited. Jess is a smarter and more confident player now. She is going really well in the Premiership, and captaining Valley. It’s great to see her come on.”

Another winger, Hui Manling, is earning her second straight selection after playing in the Olympic qualifiers. The ex-Hong Kong sprinter’s pace will be a potent weapon.

 

 

“We brought her to Monaco and she earned the trip to Dubai,” said Monaghan, adding, “She has a real Carlin Isles, Perry Baker vibe for us but from a Hong Kong perspective,” said the Hong Kong coach, referencing two of the fastest players on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.

Despite the dearth of competition, the squad has continued to develop and added new tactical dimensions, and the new players have added to that versatility. Monaghan is excited to see how they go at Asia’s top level, while noting that they have already made an impact on the squad environment.

“We have more speed and size off the bench, which gives us more flexibility and allows for new tactical dimensions. That will be hugely important given the level of competition. That flexibility can be a big advantage for us,” Monaghan added.

The rookies are the latest to emerge from the HKRU’s age grade feeder system that has generated some impactful players across the women’s game in recent seasons. Monaghan credited the Hong Kong Sports Institute, the HKRU and the clubs for keeping players involved during the pandemic.

“Gabby [Rivers] is a good example. It’s somewhat fortuitous that she’s playing here, having been on the ground only through the pandemic. She should be studying in Australia, but she has seen enough out of Hong Kong Rugby and has decided to commit. She’s a high achieving person and is now continuing her studies remotely.

“Sabay [Lynam] is also a very talented young woman who has been a strong performer for Kowloon at Premiership level in the past few seasons. Working with her has been excellent; Rosie is similar, having competed at age grade before going away for uni. She’s back now and is doing well in the Premiership.

“Without the support from the HKRU and the Hong Kong Sports Institute these players wouldn’t have been able to make the type of commitment that athletes need to make to play in tournaments like this,” said Monaghan.

“With the support of club and Union we have picked a strong squad and prepared it well. The only direction ahead is up for women’s performance rugby,” said Monaghan.

Hong Kong squad: Natasha Olson-Thorne (co-capt), Melody Li Nim-yan (co-capt); Chong Ka-yan, Nam Ka-man, Maggie Au Yeung Sin-yi, Hui Man-ling, Jessica Eden, Chloe Chan, Agnes Chan Tsz-ching, Gabriella Rivers*, Sabay Lynam*, Rosie Wright*

* First caps

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