Top rugby sevens coaches gathered and shared predictions on the hotly anticipated Hong Kong Sevens this weekend.
Sir Gordon Tietjens (Samoa), Neil Powell (South Africa), Simon Amor (England), Gareth Baber (Fiji), and Paul John (Hong Kong) all agreed that this year’s sevens will be fiercely competitive as we continue to see new nations try to make a name for themselves.
Young Post spoke to newly appointed Hong Kong coach Paul John, who hasn’t had much time to tinker with his side but is satisfied with their progress. “The boys have trained well. They understand sevens. They just need to relax and show what they can do,” he said.
Hong Kong is pooled against Chile, Sri Lanka and Namibia. Coach John wants a consistent Hong Kong all the way through the tournament. “It’s a tricky group and there are a lot of good sides now. The strength of the so-called ‘second tier’ is becoming stronger,” warned John.
The Welshman already feels the local fans’ pride and is sure their support will lift the team. “The home crowd is massively important and hopefully it’ll give the boys an extra 10 per cent provided we don’t become overawed by it,” he said.
He added, “If Hong Kong does manage to qualify for the World Series, I think the city could be a hot bed for rugby. There’s a podium programme in place and the more local talent can develop, the more powerful they will be within Asia and the sevens world.”
“Hopefully we’ll find the next Max Woodward or the next McQueen boys, who have done so much for Hong Kong sevens.” John urges any aspiring rugby player to keep practising their skills and “don’t think that’s it when something goes wrong.”
Captains of all participating teams gathered for a ceremonial photo against the foggy back-set of Victoria Harbour in Tsim Sha Tsui earlier in the day. The players towered above surrounding tourists as they took their places, and you could smell slight tension in the air as the players sized each other up.
Hong Kong captain, Max Woodward, feels the Sevens buzz as he looks forward to finally playing at the Hong Kong sevens. “I missed out last year because I was injured so it’s pretty exciting.”
Woodward wants to make the most of Hong Kong’s rare opportunity to qualify for the World Series. “We don’t get many chances to play in big tournaments so we look forward to getting some good results,” he revealed.
Like his coach, Woodward highlighted the importance of the Hong Kong fans getting behind their team during the matches. “Hearing the fans is an awesome experience, especially for guys like myself who have grown up here. When I was younger, I always used to go to the Sevens and cheer for Hong Kong!” said the local boy.
Hong Kong’s first match is a World Series qualifier against Namibia on Friday. Let’s hope John, Woodward, and the rest of the squad give the home fans something to cheer about!