All-star Max Woodward takes charge of Hong Kong sevens squad
Stand-out replaces Jamie Hood as Hong Kong kick off defence of senior Asian sevens crown and set sights on Rio Olympics qualifier
Hong Kong have appointed young "all-star" Max Woodward as captain of the sevens team, who start arguably their most important season with the opening leg of the Asia Rugby Sevens Series this weekend in Qingdao, China.
Woodward, 24, takes over as captain from Jamie Hood as Hong Kong look to defend their Asian crown after sweeping all three events in last year's series.
Head coach Gareth Baber once again faces a fine balancing act with multiple goals – and squads – in action over this season's series.
First priority is staying number one in Asia – an important component for rugby sevens to maintain elite status long-term at the Hong Kong Sports Institute.
A top-two finish will also ensure a spot in international qualifiers for the 2016-17 World Rugby HSBC Sevens Series early next year.
But the biggest challenge comes in November when Hong Kong will attempt to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics at the Asian qualifier. Twelve regional teams will do battle at Hong Kong Stadium on November 7-8.
Hong Kong-born Woodward has quickly established himself in the sevens and fifteens set-ups over the past few seasons, winning the all-important national team players' player of the year award last season while also claiming the player of the year award in both the short-form and full version of the game.
"Max has the personality and character to lead this team. He has shown strong consistency in his appearances at both sevens and fifteens and has huge respect within the group," said Baber, who also paid tribute to Hood.
"Jamie has done a fantastic job, but we felt there was already a significant burden on him in terms of decision-making by virtue of his on-field position.
"He has to manage three to four aspects of the game at any one time and we felt that having to be in charge of captaincy decisions as well was putting a lot on his shoulders, and perhaps even hindering his personal strengths as a player."
Another young gun, Calvin Hunter, gets a first call-up for an Asian series event after impressing with the U20 squad, who successfully defended their Asian title in August.