Little change to squad as Dai Rees looks to build on success
There were no surprises sprung yesterday when the Hong Kong men's team were announced for the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.
It could have been interpreted in two ways: that coach Dai Rees has remained faithful to the players who earned Hong Kong the sobriquet of Asian sevens champions, or the lack of depth forced him to stick with the same crop.
Both views starkly underline the tricky path Hong Kong will have to manoeuvre at the sixth leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series, a tournament which in itself doesn't hold any significance for the home team other than to see that they emerge from it unharmed bodily and with their spirits undiminished.
"Yes, results are not important this week. What matters is performance. We will set goals - team and individual - and be measuring ourselves against the world's best," Rees said.
"But winning a game or two will be good for morale and we have set a goal of finishing in the top 12 or making it to a final on the last day and to do this we have to win games."
Hong Kong will be playing in the top-tier competition alongside the 15 core teams and not in the bottom 12-team pre-qualifying tournament. Rowan Varty and his men are assured of a berth in the qualifying round at the London Sevens in May.
But this being the home tournament, where they will be playing in front of their own friends and family, the opportunity to "preen" will not be dismissed lightly.
"Winning core-team status is all of our dreams," Varty said. "But still, Hong Kong is important to us. We want to do well here and gather momentum."
The only change to the squad who played last weekend in Zimbabwe was ball-winning forward Eni Gesinde, who comes in for Simon Leung Ho-yam.
Last year, Hong Kong went through an entire season without any players being ruled out by injury. And that continuity paid dividends as they finished as Asian champions. But Rees discounted the possibility of sheltering key players.
"It will be full-on. We don't get the chance to play at this level often and I will be starting with my best team," Rees said.
Hong Kong are drawn with Fiji, Canada and Spain in the preliminary round. They will be targeting the latter two on Saturday, for a morale-boosting win.
Four players - Gesinde, Nick Hewson, Cado Lee Ka-to and Ben Rimene - will be making their Hong Kong Sevens debut. But they have been longstanding members of the squad, and were part of last season's campaign which earned Hong Kong Asia's top accolade.
Rowan Varty (captain), Kwok Ka-chun, Eni Gesinde, Anthony Haynes, Lee Jones, Alex McQueen, Cado Lee Ka-to, Tom McQueen, Jamie Hood, Nick Hewson, Ben Rimene, Salon Yiu Kam-shing.
Royce Chan Leong-sze, Christine Gordon, Amelie Seure, Christy Cheng Ka-chi, Cheng Tsz-ting, Colleen Tjosvold, Rose Fong, Daniella Means, Natasha Olsen-Thorne, Lai Pou-fan, Melody Li Nim-yan, Ivy Kwong Sau-yan.
Sevens blog: Move over Psy, it's Julie Andrews' style http://www.scmp.com/hongkongsevens