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Rugby Sevens: Hong Kong home in on ‘perfect start’ to Asian series

Winger Salom Yiu Kam-shing will again be a key player for Hong Kong when they host the RS Hong Kong Asian Sevens, the opening leg of the Asian Sevens Series. Photo: ARFU.

Hong Kong winger Salom Yiu Kam-shing (pictured against Sri Lanka in last year’s India Sevens) is likely to feature for the hosts at the RS Hong Kong Asian Sevens, the opening leg of the Asian Sevens Series. Photo: ARFU.

August 16, 2014: Hong Kong sevens coach Gareth Baber hopes that home advantage in the opening Asian Sevens Series event will give his side a winning start to a critical two-month period featuring further legs in Malaysia and China either side of the Asian Games in Korea.

 

In late March, Baber’s men failed to win a core spot on the HSBC Sevens World Series through qualifying at the Hong Kong Sevens, losing in the semi-finals to underdogs Italy, who were then beaten by Japan for a place on the 2014-15 circuit.

 

However, Baber believes Hong Kong are ready to regain the Asian Sevens Series crown they lost to Japan last year, especially with the competition kicking off at Hong Kong Football Club from August 23-24.

 

“We’ll be playing with pride at home. It’s a definite advantage,” said Baber, the former Wales sevens scrumhalf and coach. “There‘ll be some added pressure and I’m sure all the individuals concerned will feel that pressure, but it’s nice playing at home, full stop. We’ll have great support and have the chance to get off to the perfect start in the competition.”

 

The RS Hong Kong Asian Sevens will be followed by further legs in Kuala Lumpur (September 6-7) and Shanghai (October 18-19), with Japan and Hong Kong starting as the series favourites after the two teams competed in all four finals last year.

 

Japan won three of the finals to regain the series trophy they won in 2011, but Baber expects his men to again be targeting victory in each competition this year.

 

“Like the last few years, the standard for the men is to reach every final. That hasn’t changed,” he said. “If anything, the expectation is to be walking away with the cup from Asian tournaments.”

 

However, Baber admits that it’s the 17th Asian Games in Incheon starting in late September that’s the most important target for his side.

 

“The Asian Games is our priority this year,” said Baber, who heads the rugby sevens programme at the Hong Kong Sports Institute. “It’ll be a high-profile tournament and the biggest part is that it’s a multi-sport tournament – not just rugby union. With that comes added exposure. It’s a huge event and we’ll want to do ourselves justice.”

 

Success in both the series and Asian Games would also help rugby sevens retain its elite status at the Hong Kong Sports Institute, where most players in the men’s and women’s squads have been training full-time over the past year.

 

“In terms of sporting events in Asia, the Asian Games is the pinnacle and it has a bearing on our status as an elite sport at the Hong Kong Sports Institute. This squad has been together for a while and I’d like to think it’s made a marked difference having a full-time programme at the Sports Institute. I want to see this improvement come through in both the Asian Sevens Series and Asian Games,” Baber said.

 

“We’ve known the schedule for a while now and we’ve planned around that. It’s a matter of planning accordingly and making sure you are hitting your peak in all competitions.”

 

The Asian Women’s Sevens Series will also kick off at the RS Hong Kong Asian Sevens, with a second and final leg alongside the men in China in October, while the Asian Games will also feature a women’s competition.

 

In addition, Hong Kong will host the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series qualifier at Shek Kip Mei from September 12-13. Four ‘core’ places are on offer at the 12-team qualifier, which features Hong Kong, Japan, China, South Africa, Kenya, Brazil, Fiji, Mexico, France, Netherlands, Portugal and Argentina.

 

Hong Kong men’s sevens training squad

Jamie Hood (captain), Nick Hewson, Max Woodward, Lee Jones, Jack Capon, Michael Coverdale, Tomasi Lawa, Cado Lee Ka-to, Alex McQueen, Rowan Varty, Tom McQueen, Salom Yiu Kam-shing, Kwok Ka-chun, Mark Wright, Keith Robertson, Tsang Hing-hung, Charles Cheung Ho-ning, Gary Wong Chin-wai, Adam Rolston, Andrew Bridle, Josh Peters, Ben Rimene, Bradley Raper

 

Hong Kong women’s sevens training squad

Royce Chan, Christy Cheng Ka-chi, Cheng Tsz-ting, Christine Gordon, Colleen Tjosvold, Amelie Seure, Lai Pou Fan, Lindsay Varty, Natasha Olson-Thorne, Rose Fong Siu-lan, Sham Wai-sum, Emmy Chan Hoi-ping, Daniella Means, Ivy Kwong Sau-yan, Melody Li Nim-yan, Nam Ka-man, Aggie Poon Pak-yan, Yuen Lok-yee, Stephanie Cuvelier, Lee Tsz-ting

Source: ARFU (www.arfu.com); Editing by SportAsia

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