Keeping the faith: Hong Kong go with unchanged women’s seven for Tokyo Olympic qualifier
Hong Kong head coach Anna Richards has named an unchanged women’s sevens squad for this weekend’s second round of Olympic qualifying in Japan.
Following a third-place finish in the opening leg at Hong Kong Stadium earlier this month, the faint scent of Rio 2016 qualification still hangs in the air for the Hong Kong players, though it is accompanied by the pervading reality that destiny is not entirely in their hands.
Only one Asian women’s team will qualify after the final leg of the Asia Rugby Sevens Qualifier, and for Hong Kong to succeed they would need to win the tournament outright and hope Japan and Kazakhstan, the two finalists from the first leg, don’t reach Sunday’s title-decider.
“We still have a mathematical chance. It will be a tough one and we must now win it all this weekend,” Richards said.
Richards has picked an unchanged squad for Japan, with flying winner Aggie Poon Pak-yan – who has scored a remarkable 25 tries and 24 conversions so far in 2015 – a natural choice.But if Hong Kong are to win, and win well, all members of the squad – led by captain Christy Cheng Ka-chi and vice-captain Natasha Olson-Thorne – will have to be at the top of their game.
“We were up-and-down [in the first leg] unfortunately,” Richards admitted.
Hong Kong will have a chance to take matters into their own hands on Saturday when they meet Japan and Kazakhstan in the preliminary rounds.
Victory in both games would likely prevent the top two seeds from advancing to the final, leaving only China on Sunday morning as Hong Kong’s only other pool-stage hurdle.
Japan enter the Tokyo tournament as heavy favourites, especially as they will enjoy a rare opportunity to play in front of their home fans.
Led by the inspirational captain Chiharu Nakamura, the Sakura Seven will be intent on joining their male counterparts who secured Asia’s Olympic berth for men earlier this month in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong women’s squad
Christy Cheng Ka-chi (c), Natasha Olson-Thorne (vc), Amelie Seure, Candy Cheng Tsz-ting, Chong Ka-yan, Kwong Sau-yan, Lai Pou-fan, Lindsay Varty, Nam Ka-man, Aggie Poon Pak-yan, Sham Wai-sum, Stephanie Cuvelier