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Asia Rugby Sevens Series

Paul John eager to see Hong Kong youngsters perform on the road as Asian sevens series heads to South Korea

The Welshman makes one change to a side that featured four debutants in the opening round three weeks ago

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 September, 2017, 5:40pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 September, 2017, 10:38pm

Hong Kong coach Paul John is eager to see how his new-look side performs in a “different environment” in the second leg of the Asia Rugby Sevens Series in South Korea this weekend.

John blooded four debutants in the opening round – Seb Brien, Fong Kit-fung, Kane Boucaut and Jack Neville – and is hopeful Hong Kong can again fair well after losing to Japan in the final last time out.

“We’ve got a decent mix, the new guys who came in and did well,” John said. “They need to perform as they did in Hong Kong and have the same attitude off the field regarding recovery, warm-up and nutrition.

“The challenge is to keep doing the same things in a different environment. There is no reason we can’t.”

Hong Kong need to finish in the top two overall in the series to secure their spot in next year’s World Series qualifier and the Rugby World Cup Sevens.

South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines await John’s side in pool play this weekend and Chris Maize comes into the team, replacing Mark Wright who is out with a knee injury.

Hong Kong edged Korea 22-17 in the semi-finals three weeks ago but John knows they will be a tougher prospect on home soil.

“Korea being home will have a little bit more bite about them I’m sure,” John said. “Philippines got better as the tournament went on last time, so it’s going to be more difficult and we have got to be on top of our game.

“Korea is the third game so we would have seen them twice by the time we play them. The Philippines are a good, physical side and Malaysia left a few boys at home last time so we are not expecting any easy games.”

Maize adds height to the Hong Kong line-up, something which John is looking to use: “Chris likes to run the line-out and prides himself on looking after that.

“He brings something different, he’s not as experienced as Mark but he gives us another line-out option and another kick-off option.”

While tight-lipped about where his side is looking to improve, John admits there has been plenty to work on in the lead-up to the weekend.

World Cup berth on the line as Paul John takes new-look Hong Kong side into Asia Rugby Sevens Series

“There are a few things we needed to look at regarding our own game, we have worked on them over the last couple of weeks,” he said.

“It will be specific to certain opposition and where we kick and where they kick, we have had a good look at that and hopefully we’re prepared, but you can never be fully prepared as sevens is so unpredictable.”

Anna Richards’ women’s side are also in action, with the series condensed to two legs because of the 15s World Cup in August.

They face South Korea, Sri Lanka and China in pool play and are again chasing a top-three finish after coming in third last year.

More Japan heartbreak for Hong Kong in Asian Series but Paul John’s side ‘on track’ for World Cup berth

“We haven’t had too many competitions this year so it will be nice to get into it,” Richards said. “We have only been back together for a couple of weeks but the girls have been training really well.

“It’s a little bit of an unknown how we are going to go with a limited build-up but hopefully the girls are really keen to play well this weekend.”