Mark Coebergh rewarded for form as Hong Kong ring the changes for Asia Rugby U20 Sevens Series
Fan Shun-kei’s men are looking for an improved effort in the second leg on home soil at King’s Park, while the women face off against Thailand on Saturday in an abbreviated competition
Just weeks after his standout performance as Hong Kong won the Asian Schools Rugby Sevens Championship, 18-year-old scrum-half Mark Coebergh is one of four inclusions for the Asia Rugby U20 Sevens Series which starts on Friday at King’s Park.
Joining Coebergh in the men’s side are fellow schoolboys James Karton and Liam Herbert, as well as under-20 15s veteran Alessandro Nardoni.
After a disappointing opening tournament two weeks ago in Johor Bahru saw Hong Kong settle for the Plate, coach Fan Shun-kei is hopeful the additions will liven up his squad.
“It is a really good chance for the schoolboy sevens players to make their mark,” Fan, who also coached the schoolboy side, said.
“They are coming off a good sevens training period for the Asian schools championship and this will be a good opportunity for them to show what they can offer the team. Alessandro will also bring a bit more physicality to the side.”
Last year’s winners, Hong Kong enter round two of the competition placed fifth and with little chance of retaining their title and Fan already has an eye to the future.
“We have had a really strong team at U20s level for the last two or three years,” he said.
“That side was very settled and probably didn’t provide enough opportunities for the next group coming through in terms of game experience, so this series is hugely important for us to continue our development and to enhance our understanding of the players as we work to progress them to senior levels.”
Coebergh in particular should provide the side with a spark and Fan is looking forward to seeing how his side responds after a physical fortnight on the track.
“The guys were hugely disappointed after Malaysia, mostly at the high number of unforced errors they made,” he said.
“Since we have come back, training has been very physical and very intense and the players have responded well.”
Hong Kong have drawn South Korea and Singapore in a tough pool, with pool matches Friday ahead of Saturday’s knockout stage.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s women will feature in a heavily abbreviated competition with Thailand consisting of three matches on Saturday.
Competition should still be hot, with Thailand beating Hong Kong 7-5 in Malaysia two weeks ago and no love lost between the sides.
“The girls are really disappointed at the team withdrawals, but are also really excited that Thailand is participating,” Hong Kong coach Sam Feausi said.
“ After Malaysia, they are obviously the favourites in the series and after just losing to them in the Cup final they are the team we really want to beat.”
Shona Mihan comes in to the side to replace Jade Birkby.
“Shona brings a bit of dog – a bit of aggression – to the side, she has a great work rate and a great attitude which is what we are looking for as coaches,” Feausi said.
Hong Kong men’s U20 squad
Hugo Stiles (c), Alessandro Nardoni, James Karton, Liam Herbert, Mark Coebergh, Cameron Smith, Pierce Mackinlay-West, Tang Cheuk-hang, Chen Po-yuan, Oliver Duffy, Daniel Archer, Mak Kwai-chung
Hong Kong women’s U20 squad
Lee Tsz-ting (c), Chan Tsz-ching (vc), Tam Yu-ching, Roshini Turner, Grace Hood, Hannah Turley, Wong Suet-ying, Chloe Chan, Cathay Chan Tsz-ying, Au King-to, Shona Mihan, Rosanna Wright