Boys eye Sevens

Boys eye Sevens

Hong Kong's best juniors hope to win this summer's first Asian Schools Rugby Sevens Championship

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Ray Li Tsz-hin (left) and Martin Field hope to play at this summer's first Asian Schools Boys' Rugby Sevens Championships.
Ray Li Tsz-hin (left) and Martin Field hope to play at this summer's first Asian Schools Boys' Rugby Sevens Championships.
Photo: Jonathan Wong/SCMP
Junior rugby sevens players in Hong Kong are taking the sport even more seriously since it secured elite funding last summer.

An impressive runners-up finish by Hong Kong at last June's Under-20 Asian Sevens Championship, in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, ensured rugby sevens won enough junior-achievement points to claim elite status as a sport - and with it, Hong Kong government funding for the coming financial year.

The focus has now turned to this July's Inaugural Asian Schools Boys' Rugby Sevens Championship, held in Hong Kong. A group of 31players, born between 1995 and 1997, has been selected for Hong Kong's preparatory squad.

Among them is Ray Li Tsz-hin, 17, a Form Five student at Choi Hung Estate Catholic Secondary School. "I'm delighted to be picked, says Ray, who plays scrum-half.

"A lot of good players didn't make the final cut."

Ray began playing rugby two years ago; he joined the club Operation Breakthrough, and later played for his school team, who were fifth at last summer's first-ever Inter-School Rugby Sevens Championships.

The success of both the championships, and the Hong Kong under-20 team, led the Hong Kong Schools Sports Federation to select a squad of the 40 best local Chinese players to prepare for this summer's Asian Schools tournament. Only seven of them, including Ray, were picked for the final preparatory squad, along with the best players from Hong Kong's national under-19 squad, run by the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union.

Ray says: "I missed out on a place in the under-19 national squad because of a shoulder injury when people were being selected. So this chance is compensation for me. I hope I do well so the national squad will recruit me, too."

Martin Field, 17, who played for Hong Kong's successful under-20 team last summer, is looking forward to this summer's Asian Schools competition. This tournament is important to us," says Martin, a Year 13 student at South Island School.

"Last year's Asian Sevens was the first time I could join the under-20 team. It was a memorable experience. We beat our nerves to win an important runners-up trophy, which will help in the sport's development."

Martin, who plays fullback for Valley Fort Club, first joined Hong Kong's under-14 squad five years ago and has developed steadily since then. He is now training with senior players.

"The Asian Schools Boys Rugby Sevens Championship will be less pressurised than last summer's Asian Sevens. But I'll still push myself to do my best. I want to take away some great memories because it will be my last school tournament before I start studying at university.

"Playing in front of my home crowd at a major tournament will be a rare chance."

The preparatory squad is now practising twice a week, but their training will increase as the tournament approaches.

Fan Shun-kei, the squad's coach, says: "We are aiming high this summer. We want to win the Asian Schools title at this summer's rugby sevens championship."

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