Hardworking Hong Kong face more new challenges
Rees’ side aim to finish as top Asians in Moscow before heading to Colombia for World Games
Jamie Hood returns to a Hong Kong team which will face the pressure of finishing as the top Asian side at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow, their final challenge in a long and gruelling season - but the break will be shortlived.
The World Cup Sevens from June 28-30 at the Luzhniki Stadium in downtown Moscow will bring the curtain down on an eventful season. But relief for the tired bodies - the 12 players who have formed the core of the side this season - will be short, with the World Games in Cali, Colombia, kicking off on August 1-2.
The top Asian team at the World Cup will earn the right to send an Under-18 side to the Youth Olympic Games in China next year when sevens makes its debut.
"There will be no let-up on the weight of expectations," said head coach Dai Rees. "We have accomplished a number of goals this season, many firsts, but this team will have to go out and do it all over again in Moscow."
Rees yesterday named the 12-strong squad for the Moscow challenge.
Hong Kong were invited to the six-team World Games by the International Rugby Board on account of being the Asian champions.
There are no surprises, with Hood returning to the playmaker role he relinquished to Keith Robertson due to injury at the London Sevens last month. The rest of the squad, again captained by Varty, remains the same as that which played in the two legs of the HSBC Sevens World Series in Hong Kong and London.
Hood, Nick Hewson, Eni Gesinde, Lee Jones and Ben Rimene all return after missing the qualifying tournament for the China National Games in Shanghai a week ago due to ineligibility. They will join Varty, Kwok Ka-chun, Anthony Haynes, Cado Lee Ka-to, Alex and Tom McQueen, and Salom Yiu Kam-shing for the World Cup.
"These guys have to be congratulated. They have had a hard nine months and are still committed to the cause," Rees said. "They started with the Asian Sevens Series last September, then played in the World Cup qualifiers, then returned to their clubs for the domestic season before going to Zimbabwe as preparation for the Hong Kong Sevens and London Sevens.
"They saw Hong Kong being crowned as Asian champions and qualify for the London Sevens. We also qualified for the World Cup as well as the China National Games.
"And it [challenges] still keeps coming on as if we finish as the top-ranked Asian team at the World Cup, we will earn the right to play at the Youth Olympics next year," Rees said.
Hong Kong will face a tough task in Moscow having drawn against England, Argentina and Portugal in the preliminary round of the 24-team competition.