TEAM HONG KONG IS PRIMED AND READY TO EXPLODE AT THIS WEEKEND’S OLYMPIC QUALIFYING TOURNAMENT FOR RUGBY

Hong Kong has named the strongest possible team ahead of this weekend’s Olympic Qualifying tournament for Rugby Sevens. We ask some of the big guns to run the rule across their chances

04 11月 2015

Everything is on the line for the Hong Kong Men’s and Women’s Rugby Sevens teams at the Olympic qualifying tournament this weekend at the Hong Kong Stadium.

It is now or never for the men in the two-day tournament on 7-8 November, with the winner of the Asia Rugby Sevens Qualifier securing a spot at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Hong Kong are well aware of the great challenge they face in the region’s consistently strongest team, Japan.

The women will be looking to put in a strong showing in the first of two qualifying tournaments, with the second leg in Tokyo later this month.

Both coaches named near full-strength sides at King’s Park on Sunday, 1 November and enter the tournament with high expectations.

The men’s team will look to big guns Rowan Varty, Max Woodward and brothers Tom and Alex McQueen to set the tone.

Coach Gareth Baber is optimistic his team has what it takes to go one better than its second place at the annual Asian Rugby Sevens Series which ended in October. “I’m confident that if we play to our strengths we can get ourselves near a semi-final and a final,” Baber says.


JAPAN ARE HOT FAVOURITES

“The out and out favourites are Japan and rightly so,” says Baber. “We have got to go and knock them off their perch. We’ve done it before and that has created the belief in our players that they can do it.”

“They know it, they beat them three times last year. They had us in the Asian Games and they had us this year, but the funny thing in tournaments is that can turn on its head in 14 minutes, so that is exactly the mentality we will be going in with.”

Baber named a 13-man squad on Sunday, to be trimmed to 12 by Friday, and is confident of having a full complement to choose from after a solid warm-up at the Central Coast Sevens in Wyong, Australia just over a week ago.

In terms of player availability, “there were a couple of things that came back from the Central Coast Sevens, which was a tough tournament so you are always going to pick up a few things,” Baber says. “The physiotherapists have done their work and the players have done theirs in terms of getting themselves prepared for where they need to be this weekend and we’ve got no reason to think that they won’t be around next weekend, so we are in a good spot.”


HONG KONGS’ POOL GAMES

The team has drawn Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Philippines and Iran in Pool B, with Baber wary of a plucky Sri Lankan side and a Malaysian team that likes to play a high-tempo brand of rugby. He fancies his side’s chances of progressing past the pool stages and will be looking for his charges to draw on past experiences in the finals.

“I think (we need to) stick to what we are good at, don't get overawed by the occasion and trust in everything that we have practised and that we have delivered consistently,” Baber says. “With a bit of luck, in a final, as we have found out previously, you are in a position to beat them (Japan).”

Women’s coach Anna Richards has also named a strong squad, with only Royce Chan Leong Sze missing due to injury. The ability to name a competitive squad is unfamiliar territory for Richards, after a range of injury hiccups that have plagued the team.

“Surprisingly, we are reasonably injury-free,” Richards says. “Compared to the start of the year when, for the Hong Kong Sevens, we nearly didn’t have 12 healthy players, we are rolling along pretty well.”

With China, Japan and Kazakhstan looming as Hong Kong’s biggest threats, the key to success is very simple, according to Richards.

“We have got a good chance if we play well,” Richards says. “We showed that in the Asian Series, but we also showed in the Asian Series that if you don’t get it quite right, you get third.

“We’ve got a couple of stars but the rest of the girls work really hard. I think what we did really well in Qingdao was everybody stood up and gave our stars a bit of room to move.”

“We’ve got to play well as a team. It’s about cutting the error rate down and trying to stay consistent and focused. This tournament, our format, we have got to start well and play well every game.”


TICKETING

Tickets for the Asia Rugby Sevens Qualifier in Hong Kong on 7-8 November are available online now. Adult prices for a full-weekend pass begin at HK$360 or HK$200 for a single-day ticket. Entry for children under the age of 12 is free of charge.

Click here to book now at Ticketflap.


NEED TO KNOW MORE?

For more information about Hong Kong’s efforts to qualify for Rio, visit asiarugby7s.hk/news/the-road-to-rio or check out World Rugby’s Olympics coverage www.worldrugby.org/olympics

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