Hong Kong rest star player Max Denmark for Asia Rugby Sevens Series in South Korea
- Liam Herbert one of five changes made by head coach Paul John for this weekend’s stop in South Korea
- Coach Jevon Groves admits quick turnaround from Hong Kong Sevens is a ‘challenge’ but recalled players will be ‘keen to make their case’
Hong Kong have opted to rest Max Denmark for this weekend’s Asia Rugby Sevens Series stop in South Korea, with Liam Herbert replacing the dangerous attacker in the squad.
Denmark’s omission is one of five changes head coach Paul John has made to the group that won the opening tournament in Thailand, with Cado Lee Ka-to, Pierce Mackinlay-West, Alessandro Nardoni and Alex McQueen all stepping aside.
There is also a return to the side for Jamie Hood, who comes back into the set-up a year after his last appearance at the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in Edmonton.
Hong Kong’s men opened their Asian title defence in style, beating South Korea and Japan on day two to claim the cup in Bangkok.
In Korea, the men are top seeds in Pool A alongside dark horses UAE, China and Sri Lanka. Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Malaysia will battle it out in a challenging Pool B.
“Our focus is on that first game against Sri Lanka,” Jevon Groves, the coach, said. “They are a bit of an unknown as we haven’t seen them yet on the series and they might not have played since the Commonwealth Games. They are dangerous in open space.
“Both China and UAE are going to be better for having an opening tournament behind them as well, but our focus is on ourselves and implementing our game plan this weekend.”
Despite the changes, eight of the Hong Kong team from the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens will put their endurance to the test this weekend in Incheon. Captain Max Woodward will be joined by Russ Webb, Seb Brien, Mike Coverdale, Harry Sayers and Liam Doherty.
The squad runs the gamut from Hong Kong’s most capped sevens player Salom Yiu Kam-shing to one of its newest with Mak Kwai-chung, who has two caps, both named in the squad.
James Christie comes in at scrum-half for Lee, who picked up a slight injury at last weekend’s Sevens, while Kane Boucaut and Callum McCullough will provide muscle up front in place of Mackinlay-West and Nardoni.
“Keeping eight of the boys is a reflection on some very good performances last weekend and the fact that they are all motivated to go again,” Jevon Groves, the men’s coach, said.
“We are able to bring five experienced players into the squad. Jamie, Kane and Callum are all senior players with a lot of experience and James and Liam are exciting.
“These guys have missed out on the last few tournaments so they are hungry and keen to make their case, and I think they will add some good energy into the squad.
“The challenge for us on a quick turnaround is to integrate everyone and see how quickly we can come together and play as a team. If we focus on the team performance and get that right then the individual performances will come from there.
In contrast, women’s sevens coach Iain Monaghan has made just two changes for Korea from the tournament in Thailand, with Jessica Ho Wai-yan replaces Chong Ka-yan, and Au Yeung Sin-yi also gets a start.
The women, who finished just off the podium in the opener, will face opening leg winners China, Kazakhstan and Sri Lanka in a gruelling Pool A with Japan, Thailand, Philippines and Malaysia in the other bracket.
Hong Kong Men: Max Woodward (capt), Seb Brien, James Christie Kane Boucaut, Mike Coverdale, Liam Doherty, Liam Herbert, Jamie Hood, Callum McCullough, Mak Kwai-chung; Harry Sayers, Russ Webb, Salom Yiu Kam-shing
Hong Kong Women: Melody Li Nim-yan (capt), Natasha Olson-Thorne (co-capt), Au Yeung Sin-yi, Nam Ka-man, Stephanie Chan Chor-ki, Chloe Chan, Chan Tsz-ching, Jessica Eden, Jessica Ho Wai-on, Poon Hoi-yan, Julia Mba’oyana, Georgia Rivers, Cherly So Yee-kei.