Hong Kong Rugby Union sevens coach Paul John has
selected a 16-man squad for an intensive weeklong training camp in
Germany ahead of the start of the Asian sevens series at King’s
Park on 1-2 September.
The squad features some new faces after the
departure of Max Woodward and Cado Lee Ka-to to the Top League for
the upcoming Japanese season, and the absence of Alex and Tom
McQueen, who, following in the footsteps of former players Keith
Robertson and Mark Goosen, have enrolled in a year-long pilot
training programme with Cathay Pacific in Australia.
also returned to New Zealand in the off-season, leaving John
without some key cogs for Hong Kong’s Asian title defence.
“If you think who we’ve lost, probably five of
our first team players are gone, so that’s a big change for us,
but that’s rugby and we have been preparing for it since last
season,” said John. “Having said that, both Cado and Max are very
keen to link up with us as soon as they can after the Japanese
season ends in January. Tom and Alex are away for most of the year
but we spoke before they went away about how they can be
considered for upcoming competitions like the Asian Games. These
players will have to make themselves available and be able to
train and play for us as well, because this group at the moment
has got really close and is training really hard, so it will be
difficult to make the squad just by coming up the week before.”
The changes mean more opportunities for new
players, including two U20s players who shone at the recent Asia
Rugby U20s Sevens championships, which Hong Kong won, Fong Kit
Fung and Chong Shun Hong.
Hong Kong Scottish No.8 Kane Boucaut and Kowloon
fly-half Jack Neville have also been seconded to the squad from
the fifteen-aside Elite Rugby Programme to shore up the numbers
for the Asian series.
All of the players have been training with the
wider squad since training resumed in early July and John is
pleased with the progress to date.
“The new players have gone really really well.
Kane is a quick, fit forward and is quite physical, which is good
because the sevens game has gotten more physical now, and it’s
great to have another back in Jack Neville, after what we’ve lost
in the off-season. We’ve lost two or three centres and it’s
important to have another talented back like Jack in the squad to
help us rotate and share the workload. Both have been with us
since we started training in July and they have done extremely
well,” John said.
John is also excited about the talent coming
through from Hong Kong’s successful U20s programme.
and Chong Shun-hong both had really good tournaments at the U20s.
Fong scored something like 11 tries and Chong scored nearly as
many. Both have been training with us all of this season and for
the last six weeks of last year as cover for the boys who were
involved in the Asia Rugby Championship and I’m excited to see how
they go at the next level,” he said. “Jev [Coach Jevon Groves] and I have been
working closely with the U20s programme over the past three or
four months. We’ve had a few development camps with them and
invited the U20s boys to train with us in the build-up to the U20s
sevens tournament. We’re really focusing on integrating the
programmes to show that there is a clear player pathway for
players to the senior sevens squad. The support from our U20s
sevens coaches, Kei-jai (Fan Shun-kei) and Stephen Dowse, has been
great. They’ve worked closely with Jev and I and our joint
training programme has helped both sides prepare for their
James Karton was also involved in the training
programme this summer but will be unavailable for the start of the
Asian series due to the upcoming World Rugby Junior Trophy.
Fong and Chong join several recent graduates
from the U20s, including Alessandro Nardoni, Jason Jeyam and Hugo
Stiles, in Germany.
“Hugo’s doing really good. He’s a bottle of pop,
a real livewire and a great character. It’s 100% or nothing with
him, which is great. Ali, Mike and the other recent U20s graduates
have been with us since last spring and it’s been great to work
with them intensively for the past few months.
Despite the changes in the senior ranks, the
build-up has progressed nicely according to John.
“I can’t speak highly enough of how well the
boys have been training to be honest. They’re really working hard
on their skills and being responsible for developing their own
skills as well; they’ve been very mature from that point of view. Everyone is playing well and nearly everyone is
fit, so there’s some really good competition in the squad for
spots. We’ve hit all of our markers in training and now the
biggest thing is to do that in competition, which is what Germany
is all about. It is important now to give the boys an opportunity
to put their hands up. We’re taking away 16 players so everyone
will have a good opportunity and I’m looking forward to seeing how
they all go,” said John.
John will select his opening squad based in part
on the performance in Germany.
“Germany were keen on hosting us and obviously
it will be a good training environment as we are being hosted in
the Olympic centre in Heidelberg. We’ll train amongst ourselves
for a few days and then with them for two days before we travel
home. We just want to give the boys some more
competition really, as we prepare for the Asian series. After the
turnover amongst the senior players, I’m looking forward to seeing
how we go against another professional outfit in Germany, and of
course the week after in the Asian series,” he said.
Hong Kong Men’s Sevens Germany Training Camp (19-25
Christopher MAIZE, Toby FENN, Mark WRIGHT,
Sebastien BRIEN, Alessandro NARDONI, Tomasi LAWA, Jason JEYAM,
Hugo STILES, Ben RIMENE, Jack NEVILLE, Jamie HOOD, FONG Kit-fung,
YIU Kam-shing, Kane BOUCAUT, CHONG Shun-hong, Michael COVERDALE.
Pictures from 2017 Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens,
Pictures from 2016 Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong
Pictures of Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2015,
Pictures of the Asia Rugby Sevens Olympic Games Qualifier in Hong
Pictures of Singha Thailand Sevens 2015,
Pictures from the 2013 British & Irish Lions Tour in Hong Kong,
Pictures of Hong Kong Sevens 2014,
Pictures of Hong Kong Sevens 2013,
of Chartis Cup 2012 and
Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2012.