Hong Kong women’s sevens side relish opportunity to relive buzz of Friday night cauldron
Coach Anna Richards says that although they have been hit by injuries to key players like Christy Cheng and Royce Chan, her charges can reach the semis again
The Olympic qualifiers back in November gave the women’s squad a taste for what it’s like to play at the Hong Kong Stadium in front of a crowd that is pretty much totally behind them.
It was an experience that ended with Hong Kong finishing third, but buzzing.
And coach Anna Richards says her squad has ever since hungered for more of the same – and for the opportunity to run out in front of 40,000 baying locals, instead of the around 10,000 that turned up for those qualifiers.
The draw on Monday for the Hong Kong Women’s Rugby Sevens offered plenty of hope for her charges, too.
OK, so Hong Kong have Japan in pool B, but perennial nigglers China and Kazakhstan are in pool A and that leaves Thailand and Sri Lanka to face before the semi-finals are set in stone.
Once again the pool matches for the women will be played at King’s Park on April 7 and Hong Kong Football Club on April 8 before the final at Hong Kong Stadium in front of the usual raucous Friday night crowd.
Richards did what coaches do – and played down her side’s chances – but there’s no doubt the ladies can live in hope.
“We were disappointed last year at the Sevens when we lost in the semis to Japan, but it was a great thrill for the whole squad to come back in November and hear that home crowd cheering us on,” said Richards.
“When Aggie [Poon Pak-yan] crossed the line against China [to secure third place with a 20-12 win] the roof nearly lifted off, so we’d love to have the chance to hear the same reaction, of course.
“But it’s going to be tough. The thing is that playing in those qualifiers has given everyone a bit of a lift.”
The squad has been hit over the past year by long-term injuries to stalwarts Christy Cheng Ka-chi and Royce Chan Leong-sze, but Richards said other players were stepping into the breach.
“We’ve been training really hard,” she said. “Christy is out and Royce injured her shoulder last year and that gave some of the younger players a chance to state their case and that’s been a positive for the squad.
“The girls love playing in front of their home crowd and believe me there would be nothing better than for us to run out there on the Friday night.”