Hit-out with Olympic champions awaits Hong Kong sevens side during Fiji training camp
The team launch their World Series qualifying bid with a week of intense work culminating in an appearance at the Coral Coast Sevens
Hong Kong will mix it with the all-conquering Fiji sevens team as part of a trip to the rugby-mad nation for a training camp that culminates in an appearance at the Coral Coast Sevens in Sigatoka.
The team fly out on Sunday and their first assignment is a session with the reigning Olympic and HSBC Sevens World Series champions involving a set of training matches.
Next Tuesday’s hit-out against a side Hong Kong lost 35-14 to at the 2015 Japan Sevens will act as the perfect launch pad for their preparation for April’s World Series qualifier.
“It [the training camp] has worked out to be hugely more beneficial than we ever thought it would when Gareth [Baber] booked it before he got the Fiji job,” Hong Kong Rugby Union general manager of rugby performance Dai Rees said.
Although he has just arrived in the country himself, former Hong Kong coach Baber was able to organise the session that will feature the 19-man Fiji squad that is preparing for the upcoming Wellington and Sydney Sevens.
“We will be playing against one of the best teams in the world and I’m sure that will help us in our development not only for the tournament but throughout the year,” interim Hong Kong coach Jevon Groves said.
“It will only be a grab game, but I think we will get a lot out of it.”
The week-long trip will see Hong Kong stay at the Fiji side’s training resort, with days of intense training leading up to the Coral Coast Sevens next Friday and Saturday.
The tournament will feature local sides as well as teams from other countries – including Australia and New Zealand – complemented by Fijian players.
“We didn’t just want to go down there and play in it, we felt we needed to take the guys away from club rugby and get them into an intense training camp,” Rees said.
“We have learned lessons over the years that around this time of the year, having released the players at the end of the Asian sevens series at the end of October, there is a need to bring them back into an intense training competition away from Hong Kong.”
Rees says Hong Kong’s preparation for last year’s qualifier at Hong Kong Stadium was not quite up to scratch, with no genuine competition after the Olympic qualifier in November 2015.
“The Borneo Sevens last year wasn’t intense enough two weeks out from Hong Kong and as a result we had a poor day one and two and came up short against Japan in the final,” he said.
After losing to Japan in that final and winning last year’s Asia Rugby Sevens Series, the only way Hong Kong can improve results-wise this year is by making the World Series.
With Baber’s involvement, Rees is confident this trip to Fiji will be the beginning of an ongoing collaboration.
“We hope Fiji can come up early for the Hong Kong Sevens and again we will be training with them in preparation for Hong Kong,” he said.
“We’re in a good space, this Fiji trip is all about maximising our opportunity this year.”
Hong Kong’s 15-man touring squad will be captained by Max Woodward and features veteran Jamie Hood, who spent the season playing in the Japanese Top League.
Hong Kong touring squad:
Max Woodward (captain), Lee Jones, Michael Coverdale, Chris Maize, Charlie Higson-Smith, Cado Lee Ka-to, Jason Jeyam, Ben Rimene, Jamie Hood, Alex McQueen, Rowan Varty, Salom Yiu Kam-shing, James Cunningham, Eric Kwok Pak-nga, Toby Fenn.