Rugby: Host Hong Kong hopeful of securing Rio 2016 spot
- Updated: November 2, 2015
November 2, 2015: Hong Kong Sevens coach Gareth Baber has kept his options open for this weekend’s Asia Rugby Sevens Qualifier for the 2016 Olympics, announcing an expanded squad of 13 players last Sunday for the 12 spots to be confirmed on the Friday ahead of the event.
The squad announcement was held at the USRC Borrelli Walsh Tigersfest mini rugby festival, with over 3,500 young players and thousands of more parents, officials and supporters in attendance.
The men’s champion at Hong Kong Stadium on Sunday will advance automatically to Rio, while the women’s teams will compete in a two-tournament series in Hong Kong and Japan later this month. Rio will mark the debut of rugby sevens as an Olympic competition sport.
Asia will also have spots for the other high-placing men’s and women’s teams from the Qualifier in a final international repechage tournament in June 2016.
Baber’s men’s squad features 11 of the 12 players that won silver at last year’s Asian Games in South Korea and will be intent on going one better at home in front of what is expected to be strong local support.
Most of the familiar faces are present, including a qualified quartet of senior statesmen in former captains Rowan Varty and Mark Wright, and veterans Keith Robertson and Tsang Hing-hung.
This experienced core is bolstered by another former captain in Jamie Hood and Alex McQueen, while the strike force features Hong Kong’s two finest finishers in Salom Yiu Kam-shing and Tom McQueen, who has recently recovered from injury.
New captain Max Woodward is among several youngsters along with Michael Coverdale, Jack Capon, Chris Maize and Cado Lee Ka-to. Hong Kong will compete in Pool B with Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Philippines and Iran.
With a playing base 20 times the size of Hong Kong’s supported by a national professional league, Japan will be the top contenders to reach the final from Pool A. Japan are grouped with South Korea, third in this year’s Asian Sevens Series, China, Singapore and Chinese Taipei.
Japan are the current Asian champions after sweeping all three events on this year’s series. Hong Kong win the circuit in 2014 and finished second this year.
Japan’s women also finished top of the table in the women’s series, with China in second and Hong Kong third.
Hong Kong Men’s Sevens Squad for ARSQ (13-man squad):
Max WOODWARD (c); Rowan VARTY; Salom YIU Kam Shing; LEE Ka To, Cado; TSANG Hing Hung, Jamie HOOD; Alex McQUEEN; Tom McQUEEN; Keith ROBERTSON; Mark WRIGHT; Jack CAPON; Chris MAIZE; Michael COVERDALE.
Hong Kong Women’s Sevens Squad for ARSQ:
Christy CHENG KA CHI (c), Amelie SEURE, CHENG Tsz Ting, CHONG Ka Yan, KWONG Sau Yan, LAI Pou Fan, Lindsay VARTY, Natasha OLSON-THORNE (vice captain), NAM Ka Man, POON Pak Yan, SHAM Wai Sum, Stephanie CUVELIER.
Source: HKRU (www.hkrugby.com); Editing by SportAsia