Kwok spearheads local brigade
Speedy, young HK side contain record five Chinese players
A record five Chinese players will represent the SAR at the Cathay Pacific/Credit Suisse Hong Kong Sevens later this month. They will represent the future of local rugby and will also carry Hong Kong's hopes at the Asian Games in Doha in December.
The local Chinese brigade will be led by impressive DeA Tigers flanker Kwok Ka-chun, and include Tsang Hing-hung, Andy Yuen Kin-ho, Jeff Wong and Ricky Cheuk Ming-yin.
Apart from Cheuk, the other four will be making their Hong Kong Sevens debut at the March 31-April 2 tournament.
'Their selection bodes well for the Asian Games in Doha. There has been a lot of competition for places and we have had to make some tough choices. But this is a young and exciting squad with a nice blend of experience,' said Ivan Torpey, Hong Kong Rugby Football Union head of performance.
One tough choice was the decision to overlook teenager Rowan Varty. The UK-based Varty (he is in his second year studying law at Nottingham University), has been ignored in favour of regular wingers Cheuk and Alex Gibbs.
It seems the 'evil eye' of the Hong Kong Sevens poster has struck again. Varty is the pin-up boy on this year's poster. In 2003, Chan Fuk-ping - one of the first Chinese players to represent Hong Kong - was framed in the poster. He lost favour the following year after he was banned for kicking an opponent during a local league game.
However, Torpey insisted that Varty has a huge future ahead of him. The DeA Tigers winger, who turns 19 later this month, is still in the frame to make the Singapore Sevens squad the week after the Hong Kong Sevens, as well as play in the Asian Games.
'It was a tough call to make. Rowan has done well but he was up against two players who both have had a great season locally. Both Ricky [Cheuk] and Alex [Gibbs] are in form. It was between the three of them and unfortunately only two wingers could be picked in the squad,' Torpey explained.
Varty, who played in last year's Rugby World Cup Sevens, will have to wait another year to make his debut at the Hong Kong Sevens. Not so Mark Wright, who played a huge role in Hong Kong's successful Asian Games qualifying campaign this year. Wright, normally a back, will play as a prop.
The 12-strong squad picked by the selectors will include eight players who are eligible for the Asian Games - the five Chinese players, Gibbs, Kenzo Pannell and Wright - and they will be complemented by Nigel D'Acre, Paul Morehu, Justin Gregory and Andrew Chambers. The average age of this squad is 23 with Kwok Ka-chun the youngest at 20.
With youth on their side, this promises to be one of the fleetest sides in recent years with pace distributed between backs and forwards. While Hong Kong will have their work cut out in the preliminary stages against favourites England and the physical Canadians and Americans, the SAR will surely harbour hopes of stealing a place in the Plate competition.
But in the long run, the aim will be to fine-tune preparations for winning a medal at the Asian Games. With five other teams bounds for Doha turning up this month - South Korea, Japan, China, Sri Lanka and Taiwan - at the Hong Kong Stadium, the selectors will have a good idea where this squad stands in terms of what is needed to win in Doha.
HONG KONG SQUAD
Forwards: Justin Gregory, Kwok Ka-chun, Tsang Hing-hung, Mark Wright, Andy Yuen.
Backs: Andrew Chambers, Ricky Cheuk, Alex Gibbs, Paul Morehu, Kenzo Pannell, Nigel D'Acre, Jeff Wong.