Five on debut in Hong Kong squad for Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens
Alessandro Nardoni, Harry Sayers, Pierce Mackinlay-West, Liam Doherty, Mak Kwai-Chung in line for first HK7s
[Hong Kong, 28 October 2022]: The Hong Kong Rugby Union has announced the squad for the Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2022 (4-6 Nov. at the Hong Kong Stadium). It is Hong Kong’s first home tournament since the Sevens was last held here in April, 2019.
Throughout the challenges of the pandemic, Hong Kong have held serve as Asia Rugby Sevens champions. The squad opened their title defence with a strong performance at the first Asia Rugby Sevens Series event last weekend in Thailand, claiming the cup after convincing wins over rivals South Korea and Japan.
The HKRU management team of Paul John, head of sevens, and men’s sevens coach Jevon Groves have kept their faith in that squad, retaining the group en masse for the final 13 heading into next weekend’s competition.
“It was a fairly easy squad to name after a very good performance in Bangkok. It would have been very difficult to drop any of the players given their performances as individuals, and as a team. But with the tight turnaround in tournaments, it also made sense. With those players coming off of a tournament, we felt they had the consistency we need. These guys are primed to play.”
The group includes 10 players from September’s Rugby World Cup Sevens, Hong Kong’s last international tournament outside of Asia, excluding captain Max Woodward who missed that eventt with injury but made an impactful return in Thailand. The uncompromising Woodward earns his 5th Hong Kong Sevens selection, and his 4th as captain, a day after celebrating his 32nd birthday.
Hong Kong’s most capped Sevens player, Salom Yiu-Kam-shing, marks his 11th Hong Kong Sevens in November, and will potentially extend his appearance record to 12 when the sevens return to Hong Kong in April.
“Being able to bring Salom into the group fresh is fantastic. He adds so much experience, speed and energy for us. We all know what he can do with ball in hand and his inclusion gives us even more options in the outside backs, who performed very well in Thailand. It is always good to be able to add another threat,” Groves added.
Adding experience and nous to the group is Alex McQueen, who earns his 8th Hong Kong Sevens after making his debut in 2009 and taking a break from his playing career to train as a pilot for Cathay Pacific, co-title sponsors of the Hong Kong Sevens. Scrumhalf Lee Ka-to marks his 7th Sevens next weekend, while prop Michael Coverdalemakes a 6th Stadium appearance.
Partly because of the lengthy pandemic-enforced gap between events, the squad includes five players making their home sevens debuts. Alessandro Nardoni, Liam Doherty and Pierce Mackinlay-West have all emerged through age grade levels to cement places in the senior seven, while Mak Kwai-Chung made his first senior appearance for Hong Kong just last weekend.
Harry Sayers is also set for a somewhat surprising Hong Kong Sevens debut. The attacking wing narrowly missed out in 2019 before making his Hong Kong debut in the next weekend’s Singapore Sevens. His try-scoring capabilities out wide have since earned him a place in the team, where he adds to the attacking threat of Denmark and Yiu.
Further underscoring the time that has elapsed between Hong Kong tournaments is the fact that Seb Brien and Russ Webb, who had only made two previous appearances in the Hong Kong Sevens, are now senior leaders in the squad, having most recently co-captained at the Rugby World Cup Sevens. They will mark their 3rd Hong Kong tournaments in November after debuting in 2018.
Groves highlighted those two, captain Woodward and scrumhalf Cado Lee for their impact. “These are the leaders in our team. When they perform the whole squad performs and they aren’t recognised enough for the impact they make on the group. Coaching in Thailand was easy for us with the way they took ownership on and off the field,” said Groves.
Another player selected from the class of 2018 is Max Denmark, who currently leads the Asian series try scoring table with eight tries from five games in Bangkok.
Now all that can spoil Hong Kong’s homecoming party is playing in the pool of death next weekend. The draw has done the hosts no favours with defending World Series champions Australia, New Zealand - winners of 11 cups in Hong Kong; and the raw physical challenge of Samoa lying in wait.
The team are embracing that challenge, said Groves.
“Our expectation is to go out and be extremely competitive in front of our home crowds. The pressure isn’t really on us. We want the players to enjoy the experience as it has been a long time coming. We just want to focus on doing what we are good at, and playing with confidence. It’s about working hard and being consistent, than that enjoyment will come from that.
“We are playing three of the best teams on the Series. Now our challenge is can we back up that performance from Thailand, against the best teams in the world? We are challenging ourselves to not only maintain the performance from Thailand but take it to the next level,” Groves added.
Hong Kong squad for Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens (4-6 Nov.):
· Max WOODWARD (Capt.),
· Seb BRIEN;
· Mike COVERDALE;
· Max DENMARK;
· Liam DOHERTY*;
· Cado LEE Ka-To;
· Alex McQUEEN;
· Pierce MACKINLAY-WEST*;
· MAK Kwai-chung*;
· Alessandro NARDONI*;
· Harry SAYERS*;
· Russ WEBB,
· Salom YIU Kam-shing.
*Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens debut
Information and Photo Source : Elite Step Asia Limited / Hong Kong Rugby Union
七人隊總教練莊保羅（Paul John）及男子隊教頭高勳（Jevon Groves）對該陣容繼續保持信心，包括麥季聰（上週末取得首頂港隊喼帽），再獲欽點加入下週末的13人名單中。
之前因接受國泰機師訓練而短暫告別港隊的麥堅力 （Alex McQueen）自2009年首戰後，今次將是第8次於「香港國際七人欖球賽」上陣。傳接鋒李卡度亦將7度參戰，高凡迪爾（Michael Coverdale）也將第6次亮相香港大球場。
疫情大流行導致的長期阻滯，成為造就3名經驗較少的球員入選這13人名單的部份原因，令他們有機會初戰「香港國際七人欖球賽」。前港青成員虎拿東尼（Alessandro Nardoni）、杜靴迪（Liam Doherty）和麥堅尼韋斯（Pierce Mackinlay-West）皆獲得青睞，以及上週末首次成為大港腳的麥季聰。
「七欖」時光似箭，拜恩（Seb Brien）和韋兆新（Russ Webb）已屬隊中的師兄輩，二人已參加兩屆「香港國際七人欖球賽」，亦曾以雙隊長身份在「七人欖球世界盃」領軍。
· 禾獲特 (隊長)、
· 韋兆新 、
資料及相片來源 : Elite Step Asia Limited / Hong Kong Rugby Union