‘It’s like losing our Perry Baker and Carlin Isles’: injury-hit Hong Kong prepare for the pool of death at Women’s Sevens
The hosts enter the World Series qualifier without Aggie Poon and Chong Ka-yan but full of confidence and enthusiasm
Hong Kong coach Kevin West has likened injuries to speedsters Aggie Poon Pak-yan and Chong Ka-yan to “like losing our Perry Baker and Carlin Isles” as he prepares to take a new-look side into the Women’s Sevens World Series qualifier.
While Poon and Chong aren’t quite to the level of the lightning-quick American try machines, they have been an integral part of the Hong Kong team for many years and will be sorely missed.
They are among six players missing from last year’s Sevens team, but with injury comes opportunity and five players will make their debut when the tournament kicks off on Thursday.
“The girls have come together well,” he said. “In the last tournament in Borneo, 11 different girls scored a try so we’re trying to mix up the game so we’re not reliant on one person.”
Vivian Poon Hoi-yan, Agnes Chan Tsz-ching, Amber Tsang Wing-chi, Stephanie Chan Chor-ki and Agnes Tse Wing-kiu are set to debut and captain Christy Cheng Ka-chi is excited about what lies ahead.
While Hong Kong failed to make it out of pool play last year, Cheng is confident the enthusiasm the fivesome adds will ensure that isn’t the case this year.
“I’m really excited to see them have a chance on such a big stage, they have been working very hard,” said Cheng, who is playing in her eighth Hong Kong Sevens.
“I hope the team knows that we are missing a few core players and players really step up because of that, so it could be a silver lining.
“It’s a chance for redemption, we were disappointed with last year’s performance so this year we need to make the quarters to show we are capable of doing it.”
For so long it’s been about making it into the main stadium during the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens and with the quarter-finals also there this year – as well as the semis and final – the opportunity has never been greater.
The might of the more-fancied China, Kazakhstan and Brazil stand in Hong Kong’s way but West hopes confidence built by a tournament win in Borneo three weeks ago and a second place in the Coral Coast Sevens in Fiji in January can carry his side.
“This is the benefit of the trips to Fiji and to Borneo. We didn’t go into either of those tournaments with any goals in terms of winning or making finals and we just took every game as it came, so that is what we have got to do here,” West said.
“The feedback from the girls is that they have learned so much from that. For starters they are playing more games at a higher level and they feel like they are better equipped to work under pressure, which has been a problem.
“Last year we should have got to the second day but we made some bad decisions in our last game under pressure, so hopefully we are in a better place to be able to deal with that.”