Hong Kong coach Dai Rees keeps rugby squad unchanged for Asian qualifiers
Coach Rees to use same players for push to compete at Rugby World Cup Sevens
Hong Kong have named an unchanged squad from that which were crowned Asian sevens champions a fortnight ago for their final, and biggest push this season: this week's Asian qualifiers in Singapore for the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow in June.
Despite intense domestic-league competition over the last two Saturdays, a relieved head coach Dai Rees was able to pick the same players who had played at the last two legs of the HSBC Asian Sevens Series in Shanghai and Mumbai - both won by Hong Kong - for the fourth and final leg. It doubles up as a qualifying tournament to decide the three teams to represent Asia in Moscow.
"I'm grateful for the support I have received from the clubs, especially Valley, which has helped me keep the continuity within the squad. This understanding between the players is crucial," Rees said.
All the First Division clubs have kept in mind the bigger picture, which is to cushion the sevens players as much as possible, yet eight players fulfilled their domestic commitments last Saturday - skipper Rowan Varty (Borelli Walsh Tigers), Ant Haynes, Tom and Alex McQueen (all for Leighton Asia HKCC), Eni Gesinde and Cado Lee Ka-to (Abacus Kowloon), and Nick Hewson and Ben Rimene (ONEworks' Valley).
Valley had, however, rested Lee Jones and Salom Yiu Kam-shing, both of whom were suffering slight ankle injuries. Sevens playmaker Jamie Hood was fortunate that his team, Newedge Club, didn't have a fixture last Saturday. And Kwok Ka-chun doesn't play often in the top grade due to his job as a fireman.
"Everyone is fit barring a few niggles. Thankfully Valley was fantastic and rested Lee (Jones) and Salom (Yiu). They both could easily have aggravated their ankle injuries, putting them out of contention. But now we have the consistency for this last big event this season," Rees said.
This weekend, Hong Kong are the top seeds and are pooled with the Philippines and Guam in the 12-team competition. A hurting Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, China and Sri Lanka are all expected to be in the running for the three spots.