‘Steep learning curve’ remains for Hong Kong ahead of World Series qualifier after tough week in Fiji

After training against the reigning Olympic champions, Jevon Groves’ side struggle in the Coral Coast Sevens

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 January, 2017, 9:28pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 March, 2017, 3:28pm

There is a “steep learning curve” ahead for Hong Kong after they had a tough time of it in Fiji over the weekend.

After training with reigning Olympic and World Series champions Fiji early last week, Hong Kong failed to win a pool game in the Coral Coast Sevens, which started on Friday.

“This tournament has shown that we face a steep learning curve,” said Dai Rees, HKRU general manager of rugby performance.

“We aren’t playing enough sevens. We play four or five tournaments a season, while the teams here are playing 15 tournaments a year. We need more high-class tournaments like this and definitely hope to return next year.”

But despite winning just one game for the tournament – the Bowl quarter-final – Rees maintains the week was a success as Hong Kong look to ensure they are cherry ripe come the World Series qualifiers in April.

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Through a connection with ex-coach Gareth Baber, who is now in charge of Fiji, Hong Kong also played a series of training matches against the 19-man Fiji squad that is preparing for the next two legs of the World Series in Wellington and Sydney.

“It has given us a head start for the World Series qualifiers, exposed us to some world class sevens and set an effective benchmark in terms of our preparations,” Rees said.

“This was exactly what we had hoped for from the tour.”

After Friday’s pool play saw losses to the Coastline Roos (40-12), Naviti Ratu Filise (19-5) and Wardens (45-5), Hong Kong bounced back to win the Bowl quarter-final 23-10 against Uprising on Saturday, with Max Woodward, Jamie Hood and Chris Maize influential.

“We were much better,” Rees said. “We looked after the ball better and were back on the pace required in sevens, but there is still lots of improvement needed.”

Hit-out with Olympic champions awaits Hong Kong sevens side during Fiji training camp

Hong Kong came up against McDonald’s Saunaka in the Bowl semi-final, losing 19-17 to a team including former Fiji sevens captain Pio Tuwai and a host of other former and future internationals.

The team’s next tournament is the Borneo Sevens in March.