Rowan Varty stood down as Hong Kong sevens team captain
Jamie Hood takes over as former skipper studies to become solicitor; Hong Kong will be back to full strength for second leg of Asian series
Hong Kong will be back to full strength for the second leg of the HSBC Asian Sevens Series in Thailand this weekend but Rowan Varty will relinquish the captaincy to Jamie Hood as he focuses on earning his stripes as a lawyer.
Varty is one of four players who missed the first leg in Malaysia earlier this month as he was on duty at the China National Games. But despite being back in the fray, it was felt that playmaker Hood, who led the team in Kuala Lumpur, should continue as captain.
"We want to take all the pressure off Rowan. He is heavily engaged studying for his final exams to become a solicitor and it was best he just concentrate on his role as a player," said sevens coach Dai Rees. "Rowan has been a magnificent ambassador but he has other pressing commitments now and it is only fair that the burden of captaincy be taken off his shoulders."
Varty's work career has also resulted in him only opting to become a part-time athlete at the Sports Institute, unlike Hood who is on a full-time scholarship. This might have also played a part in the role reversal, with the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union probably preferring a full-time athlete as captain.
"Jamie is a natural leader and has done very well in terms of establishing himself as a first-choice player after Keith Robertson left for pilot training in Australia. As a captain he has earned the trust and respect of the team," said Rees.
Apart from Varty, three other players who featured at the National Games in Shenyang, return to the Asian Sevens Series squad - winger Salom Yiu Kam-shing, scrumhalf Alex McQueen and prop Simon Leung Ho-yam.
"We are back to picking our strongest squad as we don't have to share our resources like we had to during the first leg," Rees said. "But we will still miss a couple of guys, including Kwok Ka-chun who is getting married this weekend."
Kwok's place is filled by Leung, who is returning to the Asian competition after being on the fringes of selection last year. Another new face will be Valley centre Max Woodward, who has returned to Hong Kong after completing his university studies in the UK. Woodward caught the eye during the opening two legs of the domestic Thomas Pink King of Sevens tournament and has been drafted in to take the place of Anthony Haynes, who is out with a medial ligament injury picked up at the National Games.
The rest of the squad comprises Nick Hewson, Lee Jones, Ben Rimene, Tomasi Lawa, Tom McQueen and Raef Morrison, the latter part of the Hong Kong team which won the ARFU under-20 sevens competition last weekend in Johor Baharu.
Despite having to split resources, Hong Kong performed creditably on both fronts, winning a silver medal at the National Games and finishing second to Japan at the Malaysia Sevens.
"Losing 14-10 to Japan, and that too down to six men at the end, was a creditable performance. We are second to Japan in the standings with three tournaments to go and I'm confident we can retain our crown as Asian champions," Rees said.
Hong Kong are pooled with Thailand and China in the 16-team men's competition.