Hong Kong Sevens the focus for Cado Lee after sampling the ‘work hard, play hard’ delights of the Japan Top League
The 26-year-old is eager to get stuck into a big year of rugby, with the World Cup and the Asian Games also on the horizon
After learning about “work-life balance” in the Japan Top League, scrum half Cado Lee Ka-to is back in Hong Kong and is ready to throw himself into a jam-packed rugby schedule.
First is this weekend’s Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens and Lee hopes to transfer the experience he gained in Japan onto the field in the World Series qualifier.
“It’s good to be back, I’m enjoying it. It was such an awesome experience for me. Those guys work very hard and I enjoyed every single moment of it on and off the field,” he said.
“They train hard and off the field they play hard, I think they deserve it because work-life balance right?”
Lee spent the Top League season playing for the Abiko-based NEC Green Rockets, picking up some Japanese along the way.
“We were meant to have lessons every week but that didn’t happen straight away,” he said. “I still picked up a bit of wording from the Japanese players and eventually by the end of the season we were having lessons.
“On the field, the words I needed to learn, I learned pretty well. At first it was pretty difficult, if you speak Japanese to them when you’re trying to organise them they react much better. Midway through the season I started getting used to it.”
After returning to Hong Kong at the end of January, Lee set to work on making the transition from 15s to sevens.
“When I got back I hadn’t played sevens for half a year and the fitness and the training was pretty intense compared to what I was doing in Japan,” he said. “It took me a month just to get back into sevens, but I’m pretty happy where I am at now.”
Beyond the Sevens, Lee has his sights set on July’s Rugby World Cup Sevens, the Asian Games and next year’s Olympic qualifiers.
“I’m back for good now. One of the main reasons I came back was to focus on the upcoming tournaments. It’s big for me and for Hong Kong as well,” he said.
It’s Lee’s fifth Hong Kong Sevens and even at the relatively young age of 26, he will be called upon for his leadership in a team that includes five Sevens first-timers.
“This team has changed from last year and I think the young guys coming through are very good at pushing the older guys hard,” Lee said. “They play with real confidence and that’s what we want in the team.”
Hong Kong will again attempt to lock down the World Series berth they have come so close to in recent times – last year they lost narrowly to Germany in the quarter-finals, the year before they stumbled at the final hurdle against Japan.
Long-time nemesis Japan again loom large, but first Hong Kong must negotiate out of a tough pool featuring Germany, Zimbabwe and Papua New Guinea.
“The pool is hard but we have played them all before so we know what they have to give,” Lee said. “So we think we have a pretty good chance of getting to the quarters.”