Debutant Eric Kwok hopes to make an impact for Hong Kong in Monaco showdown
Only the winner of a 16-team repêchage tournament this weekend will make it to the Olympics rugby sevens in Rio
Eric Kwok Pak-nga hopes to add to Hong Kong’s scoring firepower when he makes his senior debut in the Olympic Sevens repêchage in Monaco.
It is all on the line for Hong Kong this weekend, with only the winner of the 16-team competition securing the 12th and final place in Rio.
Hong Kong coach Gareth Baber announced his final 12 late on Friday after taking 13 players to Monaco, with forward Mark Wright the one to miss out after failing to shake off a shoulder complaint.
“I think my finishing and stepping is one of my strongest skills,” Kwok said. “Hopefully I can contribute to the team offensively.”
The 21-year-old has been around the side for some time now and Baber is confident he can step straight in and play a role.
“He’s been with us, progressed through the under 20s sevens programme and is now training with the seniors and has been for years,” Baber said. “Eric is quite capable, I know he’s capable, of producing good rugby when we need it.”
Hong Kong face Mexico, South Korea and Spain in pool play on Saturday and Baber is confident his team can carry over their form from the finals of the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens qualifying competition.
That being said, he is fully aware that there is plenty to work on after some inconsistent performances in Hong Kong in April saw the team lose two games on the second day.
Hong Kong will be without five players from that side due to them not holding a Hong Kong passport, but Baber is focused on the players he does have.
He saw major gains in the squad due to the exposure to high-intensity competition in Hong Kong and is eager for the squad to further their development in Monaco.
“I’ve said many times for this group of players and the group that is coming behind them, we need to have more opportunities to learn like that under pressure,” Baber said.
“To me that’s six months of learning on a training field, what you can get done in two and-a-half days in an international tournament.”
If Hong Kong does progress from pool D, HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series teams Samoa, Russia and Canada await and Baber believes the possibility of playing against sides of that calibre is “fantastic”.
“That’s where we want to test ourselves,” he said. “Those are the standards we want to be hitting.”
Max Woodward and Tom McQueen return to the side after missing through injury in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong squad: Max Woodward (captain), Rowan Varty, Salom Yiu Kam-shing, Jamie Hood, Alex McQueen, Tom McQueen, Cado Lee Ka-to, Calvin Hunter, Eric Kwok Pak-nga, Jack Capon, Michael Coverdale, Chris Maize.