Ex-skipper Mark Wright out to make late charge into Sevens squad
Forward hopes to impress coach in Zimbabwe to secure his Hong Kong jersey
Former captain Mark Wright will return to action in Hong Kong colours this weekend at the Harare International Sevens in Zimbabwe, which will be used as a final selection trial for the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens later this month.
Hong Kong left on Tuesday night with Wright being the only player Gareth Baber, new head coach at Hong Kong Sports Institute, has not seen in action.
Wright, a bustling forward, last played for Hong Kong at the 2010 Asian Games, where he led the team to a silver medal.
"Mark is definitely in the frame for selection for the Hong Kong Sevens," said Baber.
"This tournament is very important for me to make up my mind. I have got to a stage where I know the majority of the makeup of the squad, but with a couple of injury doubts I need to have a final look."
Jamie Hood will captain the 14-strong squad, which includes Max Woodward, Rowan Varty, Salom Yiu Kam-shing, Alex McQueen, Josh Peters, Wright, Kwok Ka-chun, Tom McQueen, Nick Hewson, Raef Morrison, Tsang Hing-hung, Chris Maize and Ben Rimene.
Wright, who also captained Hong Kong to Shield victory at the 2010 Hong Kong Sevens, has been out of contention for the past three years due to a combination of injury and unavailability. He was contracted with Japan Top League team Tokyo Shokki Shuttles, which prevented him from turning up for Hong Kong.
At present in negotiations over a new contract with the Shuttles, who want him back, Wright is nevertheless available until the Hong Kong Sevens. With doubt about the readiness of Lee Jones, who is recovering from a badly sprained ankle incurred during the semi-final of the Grand Championship, Wright will give cover up front.
Baber was hopeful that Jones will make a speedy recovery. He said: "It was quite a nasty sprain of the ankle, but he looks to be making progress in his recovery. He has been full-on in rehab over the last week and will continue that while we are away in Zimbabwe as well, so hopefully by the time we get back next midweek he will be in a position to get a bit of a fitness test so that I can see where he is."
Baber is expected to announce his 12-strong squad for the Hong Kong showpiece next weekend. The Zimbabwe trip will allow Baber to make up his mind with other core team aspirants Russia and the hosts also featuring.
"This will offer us a good level of competition, certainly some physical competition as well, which is where we need to be to prime ourselves for the Hong Kong Sevens. It will be an important measurement for us in terms of where we are two weeks prior to the Hong Kong tournament," Baber added.
Among the new faces included in the side is Chris Maize who has returned from injury and impressed with his play in the domestic league.
Baber said: “It will be one of the first real hit-outs for Chris, so it will be good to see him. He has impressed, he is a physical young man with a good skill level and work ethic. Both he and Josh [Peters] need to play at these levels of competition to develop their game.
Hong Kong’s first match in Zimbabwe, in Pool A, is against a Russian development seven side, followed by Zambia and, finally, the Zimbabwe national team that will be competing in the Hong Kong Sevens in two weeks.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong women’s sevens squad are in Japan for a specialist sevens training camp which includes matches against a Japan Select VII at Rissho University on Friday and Saturday.