The Hong Kong Rugby Union announced the men’s and women’s sevens squads set to compete in the Cathay/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2023 from 31 March to 2 April at the Hong Kong Stadium.
Experienced co-captains Natasha Olson-Thorne and Melody Li Nim-yan will take the women’s team into its first ever HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournament this weekend when the Sevens hosts a full Series tournament for the first time in its history.
The team has a largely veteran cast with Nam Ka-man, Stephanie Chan Chor-ki, Jessica Ho Wai-on, Chloe Chan, Maggie Au Yeung Sin-yi and Agnes Tse Wing-kiu joining the co-captains. Rising stars Lam Tsz-yan, Micayla Baltazar, Julia Mba Oyana and Allianz Premiership player Rosie Wright are all included as the women look to use their debut World Series appearance inside the stadium this weekend, and then at the Singapore Sevens, as a stepping stone for the World Rugby HSBC Sevens Series qualifiers in South Africa at end April.
Hong Kong, China are in Pool A with Series leaders New Zealand, Canada and Team Great Britain. Their first match against New Zealand is on Friday at 14.16.
Hong Kong Sports Institute Head Sevens coach Paul John spoke about the opportunities and challenges that lie in store, saying: “This is the biggest test the girls have ever had. We have a difficult group, but we have to embrace that, learn from it, and take the experience of a lifetime out of this weekend. The biggest challenge is to respect, not fear, our opponents,” said John.
The men’s side is also laden with experience with nine players returning from November’s Sevens including captain Max Woodward – marking his sixth tournament (five times as captain) in 2023. Hong Kong Rugby’s most capped player, the evergreen Salom Yiu Kam-sing, will celebrate a 12th appearance at the Sevens. This weekend also marks Yiu’s 70th sevens appearance for Hong Kong.
Alex McQueen marks his ninth showing, while senior players Russell Webb and Seb Brien make their fourth appearances at the Hong Kong Stadium. Top finisher Max Denmark makes his third Hong Kong Sevens appearance this weekend. Alessandro Nardoni, Pierce Mackinlay-West and Mak Kwai-chung will also mark their second tournaments. Two X-factor players have also recovered from injury battles to make debuts in 2023 in Liam Herbert and Hugo Stiles, both of whom were side-lined by injuries for last November’s tournament.
“The squad is rugby ready. It has been a tough selection, and there are some very good players missing out, but over this next month there is more of a view to the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series. We want to give guys an opportunity, so we can have the most competitive squad we can for the Challengers and to push for a place on the circuit. Hong Kong and the Singapore Sevens the week after will show where we are at now.”, said men’s coach Jevon Groves.
Hong Kong are pooled with France, Team Great Britain and Uruguay in Pool B. The men will close out the tournament’s opening day against France, who finished second place in the most recent tournament in Vancouver. That game is at 20.33 on Friday, 31 March.