Hong Kong bullish about the future

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 March, 2004, 12:00am

'Bringing in Dallas Seymour as coach has given the side an extra boost this year'

Hong Kong have the depth and talent to take their game to a new level, HK Rugby Football Union chairman John Molloy said yesterday after another successful Sevens.

Hong Kong won plenty of plaudits for progressing to the Plate, Sproof that their grand plan involving former New Zealand Sevens star Dallas Seymour was heading in the right direction. Hong Kong were exposed by their lack of pace in their loss against the Kenya, but Molloy said there were a number of bright prospects coming through the ranks who had the speed and talent to star on the big stage.

'Bringing in Dallas Seymour as coach has given the side an extra boost this year. This is a plan we have put in place going through to the Rugby World Cup Sevens here in 2005. We have one or two younger players coming through and maybe they will be pushing for a place in the side next year. What we have to do is give them the best quality coaching we can.

'The state of rugby is getting stronger every year. We have put a lot of emphasis in the past five years into mini-rugby. We have thousands of children playing every Sunday - more than 3,000 across 15 clubs. We are trying to make sure they go through to youth rugby and end up in senior rugby.

'And hopefully we will see them in the Hong Kong national side. We are beginning to see the fruits of this with young players coming through into the First Division and challenging for Hong Kong places.'

Molloy said local and expatriate children were tending to stay in Hong Kong and the pool of players was therefore far greater. 'We don't get that drain that we used to,' he said. 'We have more teams playing in the league than ever before. And rugby is now played at Hong Kong University and City University ... that's a tremendous sign for the future. Once we get the universities playing, with the number of students coming in every year, then we can really go places.'

Director of coaching Jim Rowark is also bullish about the future, pointing to the talent on show in the curtain-raisers on Sunday. 'We have a basic problem here, and there is nothing a coach can do about it, and that is we really lack out and out pace. It's something that we are going to have to work on. If we can't find pace we got to play it in a different way.

'We can't make people faster. We have to look through our development programme and recognise people with that kind of talent. In the junior games [on Sunday] there were some quick lads out there. It's not going to happen overnight because these boys need to get that experience at higher levels.

'We need to look at it in terms of four or five years down the road when some of those 15- or 16-year-olds are in their late teens, early 20s.

'We are very much in a transition phase with three or four guys probably at the end of their sevens careers. Paul Dingley, Chris Gordon and Carl Murray have been great sevens players but it's a young fit man's game now and those guys are not getting any younger.'

Rowark said Hong Kong had to be proud of their achievement in reaching the Plate, a reflection of the new direction under Seymour.

'We appointed Dallas this year with a view he would work this squad through to the World Cup. He will take this squad to Singapore this weekend and we will talk to him after that to determine a programme leading up the World Cup.

'We'll work out how we can bring in some of these younger lads. Some of the old faces will change by 2005, but I don't think we can make a big leap in that year.

'We have some good young players. Chan Fuk-ping has already been playing for years but is only in his mid 20s. Lee Cheuk-yin played against Fiji and had a lovely game ... he stepped up. And there are signs that some of the younger players are also coming through.'

Rowark said one of their priorities was to make sure a structure was in place for the young players to find their way to the top.

'We have just appointed a new head coach, Ivan Torpey, and he has a lot of experience in player development and coaching developing,' Rowark said.

'While the top of the pyramid for him will be the representative squads he will be doing a lot of work lower down in trying to bring these people through the structure,' he added.