Schedule shuffle gives Rees reasons to smile
Hong Kong head coach Dai Rees has welcomed the rescheduling of the Bangkok Sevens - and the domestic league - as it will provide him with a useful warm-up for the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens from March 23-25.
The third leg of the 2011HSBC Asian Sevens Series was postponed in November due to the floods which ravaged the Thai capital. The Asian Rugby Football Union has rescheduled it for February 11-12, giving Rees an early opportunity to look at the form of his players who are in 15s mode in the domestic league. The final round of the regular season has been moved forward from February 11 to a week on Thursday so players can be available.
'This is ideal. The timing couldn't be better as the league competition will end the day before we depart for Bangkok. I will take a strong team so I can have an idea of what to do before the Hong Kong Sevens,' Rees said.
'This is an important year as we will also be playing in the Japan Sevens the week after our own tournament. While all the focus has been on 15s lately, this trip to Bangkok will give the players the chance to get their minds back on sevens.'
Hong Kong finished second to Japan in the Asian Sevens Series last year. The outcome in Bangkok will not affect the standings as the tournament is a non-ranking event - only Shanghai and Borneo counted.
But Rees will be hoping to strike an early psychological blow against the rest of Asia - Japan are likely to send their second-string squad as their main team will be involved in the IRB Sevens World Series - as Hong Kong look at qualifying for the World Cup in Moscow next year.
Hong Kong will be missing two key forwards who played a huge role in the sevens campaign last season. No 8 Pale Tauti is focusing on 15s with the HSBC Asian Five Nations Top Five competition coming up in April, while flanker Nick Hewson is out with a knee injury.
But the good news is former sevens captain Mark Wright is back in action after a year-long lay-off recovering from a shoulder operation. Wright is playing in Japan's second division for Toyota Shokki Shuttles, who are bidding to win back their place in the top tier.
'Mark has played three games for his club who are now in the play-offs. Hopefully, we will be able to get him back for the Hong Kong Sevens,' Rees said.