Bring it on, say Hong Kong after favourable draw for winner-takes-all Olympic rugby repêchage
Gareth Baber’s team will face Spain, Mexico and South Korea next month
Hong Kong “have nothing to fear” after a favourable draw for next month’s winner-takes-all Olympic repêchage tournament, said coach Gareth Baber.
After a barnstorming run to the final of the World Series Qualifier on home soil in April, HK were seeded fourth, the highest for a team not on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, for the 16-team tournament in Monaco next month.
And after landing Spain, Mexico and South Korea, they will enter pool play full of confidence. The winner of the tournament gets the one remaining ticket to Rio.
“We’ve got nothing to fear,” said Baber. “We’ve just got to get the detail right on ourselves moving forward into the qualifying tournament and make sure we get our plan in place.”
Spain will be the toughest task for Hong Kong in pool D, but a 12-7 victory at the Hong Kong Sevens to reach the semis of the Qualifier tournament is proof they can beat them.
Baber knows plenty about South Korea due to recent hit-outs in the Asia Rugby Sevens Series, while Mexico are somewhat of an unknown.
“We played Spain in Hong Kong and we got the better of them, but I’m sure they’ll be a lot more comfortable nearer home come the qualifiers,” he said.
“We know how tough Korea can be. We haven’t played Mexico recently but obviously they have been in tournaments with us and we know that they can play as well.”
While well positioned to make it out of pool play as one of the top two ranked teams, the likes of World Series teams Samoa, Canada and Russia await Hong Kong.
“With three teams to play in our pool, all of which we are capable of being competitive against, our team will certainly be looking at doing what we need to do to get through those,” Baber said.
“When you get into tournaments like this, I think it is about sticking to your consistency and your processes and making sure that you’re dealing team by team, rather than focusing too far in advance.”
A host of the players that will make up Baber’s 12 for Monaco on June 18 and 19 are currently representing Hong Kong in XVs at the Asia Rugby Championship.
Because of that there will be no chance for a warm-up match for the sevens team, which will leave for Europe the weekend after the ARC finishes.
“The physicality that they’ll have playing 15s and the decision-making element of the game doesn’t change,” Baber said.
“I’m looking for them to get as much out of that as they can. They’ve done well and I hope they come out with some of that form and put it back into the sevens.”
Hong Kong’s women have been landed with a much tougher assignment for their repechage in Dublin on June 25 and 26, facing Argentina, Kazakhstan and the Cook Islands.
“It will be a good challenge for us,” said coach Anna Richards.
“We know what Kazakhstan are like and they are obviously a massive challenge for us. I think we have got the capabilities of beating Argentina and we don’t know huge amounts about the Cook Islands.”