Last chance for Hong Kong as sevens squad head for final Olympic qualifier in Monaco
Hong Kong will face World Sevens Series teams such as Samoa, Russia and Canada this weekend, with only one place in Rio available
Max Woodward is fit and ready to lead Hong Kong into the do-or-die Olympic repêchage in Monaco this weekend after a quad injury kept him out of April’s Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.
Woodward is confident Hong Kong can pick up where they left off at the Sevens and is itching to get back into top flight competition after the frustration of injury.
“We don’t get many tournaments, you train April to April only to miss out on that one Hong Kong tournament,” he said.
“It’s pretty gutting. I worked hard and I got back in and hopefully I’ll be all good when I get to Monaco.”
Hong Kong left for Europe on Monday with a squad of 13 due to some injury concerns, with the final 12 to be named later in the week.
Woodward is one of a couple of much-needed big name additions to a Hong Kong line-up that will take on a very different look to the one that lost to Japan in the final of the qualifying tournament in Hong Kong.
Winger Tom McQueen is the other, but Ryan Meacheam, Ben Rimene, James Cunningham, Toby Fenn and Lee Jones have stayed behind as they are not Hong Kong passport holders.
While the brilliance of the likes of Rimene and Meacheam will be sorely missed, there is plenty of experience in the side and 11 of the 13 players selected took part in the Asian Olympic qualifiers last November.
“Whether or not the guys played in Hong Kong, we have been there or thereabouts for the last two or three years with the same guys,” Woodward said.
“We know we have the game to challenge teams and to win matches but it’s about the consistency and making sure we hit those performance markers every time we play.”
With only one spot in the Olympics available, Hong Kong are in for a ruthless two days in a tournament featuring HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series teams Samoa, Russia and Canada.
South Korea, Mexico and Spain await Hong Kong in pool D and form suggests Hong Kong are well-placed to progress from pool play into the finals.
“We know in some of the games we’ve got advantages against the opposition, but we will also be making sure we do our analysis,” Hong Kong coach Gareth Baber said.
“Obviously we played Spain recently and got a victory over them. Korea we know a lot about and Mexico less about, but we did have some training games against them here in Hong Kong.”
Youngsters Calvin Hunter and Eric Kwok Pak-nga will add enthusiasm to the side if selected, with 21-year-old Kwok in line to realise a dream in making his senior debut for Hong Kong.
“I have a few goals for myself in my rugby career, one is that I want to make the Hong Kong Sevens and one is that I want to represent Hong Kong as much as I can. The third is that I want to be part of the Olympics,” Kwok said.
“Hopefully I contribute to the team environment in terms of my happiness on the rugby field and my passion for the team.”
Hong Kong 13-man squad (one player to be cut):
Max Woodward (c), Rowan Varty, Salom Yiu Kam-shing, Jamie Hood, Alex McQueen, Tom McQueen, Cado Lee Ka-to, Calvin Hunter, Eric Kwok Pak-nga, Jack Capon, Michael Coverdale, Chris Maize, Mark Wright