Captain Woodward ready to take it to the Max as Hong Kong look to join World Series elite
The 26-year-old will lead his side in the Sevens for the first time after missing last year through injury as hosts name squads
After injury deprived him of the opportunity to captain his side at last year’s event, Max Woodward cannot wait to take the reins at the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens for the first time.
The 26-year-old was one of 14 players named by Hong Kong coach Paul John on Friday for next weekend’s qualifying competition, with the squad to be trimmed to 12 plus a substitute ahead of the tournament.
“It’s obviously a big tournament for us not being on the World Series, missing out on that one tournament you get a year wasn’t great for me,” Woodward said.
“I’m looking forward to going at it again. I was able to get back for [the Olympic repechage in] Monaco which was a big deal, but since then it’s all been gearing towards this.
“Obviously we have had some tournaments in between but the way I see it is they are all stepping tournaments towards next weekend.”
With a spot on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series on the line, Hong Kong will be without key playmaker Alex McQueen, who had his appendix removed last week, but household names Jamie Hood, Lee Jones, Ben Rimene and Rowan Varty are all there.
Tom McQueen is a chance to make his return from a long lay-off due to an ACL injury, while 22-year-old scrum half Jason Jeyam is the only potential debutant in the squad.
After recent trips to Fiji and Borneo, Hong Kong will put the finishing touches to their preparation with training hit-outs with Fiji on Saturday and Wales on Tuesday.
“It’s lucky we have the link with Fiji now and with Wales, it’s pretty special,” Woodward said.
“I’m not sure that any of the other qualifying teams get the opportunity to play against these teams so it’s pretty good for us prep wise.”
Hong Kong face Sri Lanka, Chile and Namibia in pool F, with Chile especially set to pose a threat after playing as the invited team at the Las Vegas and Vancouver legs of the World Series.
“A team like Chile we have played a couple of times before and I think they are going to be strong physically, the way they play the game,” Woodward said.
“Sri Lanka we have played a lot and they are always a hard team to face because they have a lot of X-factor on the field, but I think we are quite confident going in against them.
“Namibia first up is a tough one. They have a good 15s side and there is obviously good players in and around their rugby set-up so you never really know who they are going to bring.”
John is looking forward to getting down to business after taking over less than a month ago and is happy with the squad he has at his disposal.
“The boys have all trained well and I’ve been really impressed by their attitude,” John said. “It’s good to see we have got the strength and depth now and these boys who have been picked are being pushed from below.”
Hong Kong women’s coach Anna Richards finalised her 12 for the women’s qualifying tournament starting on Thursday, with every player having experience at the Hong Kong Women’s Sevens.
Lindsay Varty is a notable absentee due to injury, but after training camps in New Zealand and Japan Richards feels her side is primed to give a good account of themselves.
“I think it has probably been one of our more consistent and better build-ups,” she said. “We didn’t have the same pressures as you get in a tournament but we tried to replicate that as much as we could and I think it’s our best lead in so far.”
Christy Cheng Ka-chi will captain the side in what is sure to be a hotly contested tournament, with Argentina, Kenya and Belgium awaiting Hong Kong in pool B.
Hong Kong men’s squad: Max Woodward (c), Michael Coverdale, Toby Fenn, Jamie Hood, Jason Jeyam, Lee Jones, Cado Lee Ka-to, Chris Maize, Tom McQueen, Ryan Meacheam, Ben Rimene, Rowan Varty, Salom Yiu Kam-shing, Mark Wright
Hong Kong women’s squad: Christy Cheng Ka-chi (c), Natasha Olson-Thorne, Candy Cheng Tsz-ting, Chong Ka-yan, Adrienne Garvey, Ivy Kwong Sau-yan, Nam Ka-man, Aggie Poon Pak-yan, Amelie Seure, Sham Wai-sum, Colleen Tjosvold, Yuen Lok-yee