Hong Kong coach Gareth Baber keeps faith with tried and tested squad for Thailand Sevens
Tyler Spitz replaces injured Tomasi Lawa in the only change to ‘bitterly disappointed’ China Sevens line-up
Hong Kong sevens coach Gareth Baber has kept faith with his squad for this weekend's Thailand Sevens in Bangkok, despite the side suffering their first Asia Rugby Sevens Series defeat in more than a year at the China Sevens three weeks ago.
In the first of three tournaments in the 2015 series, in Qingdao, Hong Kong lost to the hosts in the quarter-finals and ended up winning the Plate competition.
However, Baber retained 11 of the 12-man team from the series opener. Hard-tackling back Tyler Spitz is the only change, coming into the squad after Tomasi Lawa was injured in training.
"We were bitterly disappointed after China, so it was a pretty introspective mood for two or three days when we returned," said Baber.
"But we regrouped and kept things in proper perspective. We lost one game, our first in over a year at this level, and against a team in China that we hadn't lost to in a long while. But that happens in sport.
"We know we need to pick ourselves up and go out and perform this weekend in Thailand. We identified some issues from the first tournament, particularly in our defence, and we have worked hard on that in training.
"Training has been good and the only black mark was the injury to Tomasi. But it's next man up and Tyler adds a lot to the squad," Baber said.
Spitz, who returned to Hong Kong last season, will make his first Asia Rugby Sevens Series start when the Bangkok tournament kicks off on Saturday.
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"Tyler is very solid defensively and he has a lot of physicality to his game, as people saw when he made his fifteens debut [for Hong Kong] against Russia.
"He has worked hard to get himself into peak sevens condition and has dealt with everything we have thrown at him. He has a good work rate and will be an important addition for us this weekend," said Baber.
While Spitz is not yet eligible to participate in the Asia Rugby Olympic Qualifiers, being hosted in Hong Kong in November and played under tight IOC eligibility restrictions, nine of the 12-member squad picked for Thailand are Olympics eligible.One of those players is youngster Calvin Hunter, who has come into the senior squad after some outstanding performances for Hong Kong at the U20s age-grade level.
Hunter earned his second straight selection after getting some expanded playing time in China.
"Calvin did well on his series debut. He got a lot of playing time after we lost to China and contributed when he was on the pitch.
"We want to give him another opportunity and see how he handles himself against some of the top teams," Baber added.
Hong Kong are ranked second in pool B in Bangkok between Sri Lanka and Taiwan.
“It’s a good level of competition in the pool," said Baber. "We haven’t played either of them [this season] but we are very familiar with both sides from previous years.
“The mood in the squad is really good and the players are very focused. We are confident, we have trained well and we know what we have to do. We understand that we need to prove ourselves in every game and that as Asian Champions no one will take us lightly, just as we don’t take any of our opponents lightly.”
Hong Kong’s sevens squad for Thailand Sevens
Max Woodward (c), Chris Maize, Cado Lee Ka-to, Mike Coverdale, Nick Hewson, Calvin Hunter, Tyler Spitz, Alex McQueen, Jamie Hood, Rowan Varty, Salom Yiu Kam-shing, Ben Rimene
Hong Kong’s results – pool B day one (September 26)
- 12:52 Hong Kong 34-0 Taiwan
- 17:52 Sri Lanka 14-33 Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s results – knockout stage day two (September 27)
- 10:00 Cup quarter-finals: Hong Kong v Malaysia