Hong Kong’s preparation for Asian Games challenge starts in Canada
Team set to hone skills in 10-day camp with seasoned IRB World Series squad at Shawnigan Lake in July
Hong Kong will hone their challenge for a rugby sevens gold medal at the Asian Games by travelling to Canada for a 10-day training camp which will include matches against the IRB World Series-hardened Canadians.
The squad, which comprises several players who also feature in the XVs line-up - including skipper and flanker Nick Hewson, fullback Alex McQueen and wingers Rowan Varty and Tom McQueen - will be at Shawnigan Lake from July 3-13 and will train with the Canadian sevens team.
"The purpose of this trip is to work at the Canadian Rugby Centre of Excellence at Langford and also travel to Shawnigan Lake to stay, train and compete in conditioned sessions with the Canadian squad," said Hong Kong sevens head coach Gareth Baber.
"The Canadians will be preparing for the Commonwealth Games [July 26-27] and it provides us an opportunity to prepare for the upcoming Asian Sevens Series as well as the Asian Games against quality international opposition, with Canada finishing last season ranked sixth in the World Series," Baber said.
Winning a medal at the Asian Games is of utmost importance to the future of rugby sevens at the Hong Kong Sports Institute, where it is in its first year as an elite sport as - millions of dollars in annual support is at stake.
With this in mind, the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union has decided the sevens squad can be spared some time off from training with the 15s squad, who will start preparing in July for the first-round repêchage match against Uruguay in Montevideo.
Hong Kong finished runners-up to Japan in the Asian Five Nations to book a repêchage spot for the 2015 World Cup. This game is set for August 2; the sevens competition at the Incheon Asian Games is in late September.
"Preparation for the Uruguay fixture will be no way affected by our camp," Baber said.
"There will be a mix of players going with a nucleus of experience but we will also be looking to expose some of the less experienced players in order to increase the depth of our squad.
With the first two legs of the Asian Sevens Series to be held before the Asian Games - Hong Kong will host the first leg in late August - Baber will also be able to take a close look at a larger squad before naming the final 12 for Incheon.