The changing face of Hong Kong rugby was exemplified yesterday with 12 of the 17-man training squad named for the Cathay Pacific/Credit Suisse Hong Kong Sevens eligible for future Asian Games competition.
The squad will undergo an intensive training period from now until the showpiece event on March 30-April 1, when the outfit will then be whittled down to the final 12-man squad.
'We proved at the Asian Games we have a talented group of players coming through. These guys are the future of Hong Kong rugby,' said the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union's head of performance, Ivan Torpey.
'It's a very young squad which is a testament to the development programme put in place over the past decade.'
Six players are hoping to make their Hong Kong Sevens debuts - Colin Bisley, Fan Shun-kei, Anthony Haynes, Nick Hurrell, Keith Robertson and Ashley Wayburne.
Bisley and Robertson best illustrate the changing face of rugby. Bisley, a New Zealander, has been a star performer for Hong Kong Cricket Club over recent years and became eligible to play for Hong Kong late last year.
Robertson, 19, is born and bred in the SAR. The winger was an outstanding success last season at international sevens level and in the Asian Games last month.
Ten members of the team who played at the Asian Games in Doha last month have also been included in the training camp.
'The standard of player now vying for places is without doubt the strongest it has been since my arrival in 2004,' Torpey said. 'The task of reducing the squad to the selected 17 players has been the most challenging of all of the sevens selections I've been involved with.
'The form of the players can also be attributed to coach Rodney McIntosh. Rodney is a former Hong Kong Sevens player and everyone has a lot of respect for him.'
Players with previous Hong Kong Sevens experience in the squad are Andrew Chambers, Ricky Cheuk Ming-yin , Nigel D'Acre, Justin Gregory, Kris Marin, Kenzo Pannell, Tsang Hing-hung, Rowan Varty, Jeff Wong, Mark Wright and Andy Yuen Kin-ho.