Coach Dai Rees hails fresh talent as Hong Kong go down to Belgium
Alvin Sallay in Dubai
Belgium was a bridge too far for Hong Kong but head of performance Dai Rees hailed the second Emirates Airline Cup of Nations as a success with a number of players announcing they were ready to step into the void left by sevens players next season.
"We have achieved what we set out to do which was to unearth players who can fill the places left vacant by the sevens squad next season," said Rees.
"Guys like centres Stewart Megraw and Craig Wilson, flyhalf Chris McAdam, the two scrumhalves Charles Cheung and Kenneth Hsieh, and in the forwards, Matt Lamming, who was the find of the tournament, have all put their hands up." .
Another bonus was the return of skipper Tom McColl, playing international rugby for the first time in 16 months after earning his pilot's wings with Cathay Pacific.
Hong Kong beat Zimbabwe (22-7) and the United Arab Emirates (51-6) but fell 24-12 at the final hurdle to a powerful Belgium outfit, boasting a number of seasoned professionals who play in the French leagues.
Hong Kong tackled their hearts out but the bigger Belgium forwards dominated at the breakdown to score a try in each half, which proved the difference between the sides. All of Hong Kong's points came from the left foot of McAdam, another plus point as next season's HSBC Asian Five Nations Top Five competition looms.
"The Asian Five Nations is key next year as we have to stay in the elite group so we can play in the World Cup qualifiers in 2014. But at the same time we have a busy sevens schedule as we look to the London Sevens and the World Cup in Moscow," Rees said.
Hong Kong will play at least nine international sevens competitions next year, starting in early March when the squad travel to Harare to take on Zimbabwe in a series of matches.
"We are looking at taking on a side like Zimbabwe who will be big and powerful two weeks before the Hong Kong Sevens. This will be a good training camp," Rees said.
Following the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens (March 22-24), Hong Kong will participate in the London Sevens in May as they bid to become a core team in the world series, then travel to Moscow at the end of June for the World Cup.
"We will also play at the China National Games and wrap up a busy 2013 by playing in the four legs of the Asian Sevens Series. It will be a hectic schedule for the sevens squad and it is good to see a bit more depth being unearthed on this trip," Rees said.