The day before the Hong Kong Sevens began, the US Men’s National Sevens Rugby Team, the Eagles practiced on the field at Hong Kong International School. As an American school, it is a tradition for HKIS to host the US team before the Sevens each year.
The Eagles played on the HKIS field between the mountains and met with HKIS's student rugby players. “It’s very different from where we have been training, which is amongst the skyscrapers," said head coach Mike Friday. “It’s lovely to see other parts of Hong Kong that we wouldn’t normally see, so it’s been great.”
Groups of excited students loitered around the edges of the field as the players began to train, and numbers grew as more students came to see the players. Students had the opportunity to watch up close as some of the world’s best rugby players ran passing drills, practiced tackling, rucking and formation. Both serious rugby players and casual fans from the student body watched intently. The presence of winger Carlin Isles, the fastest rugby player in the world, caused quite a stir among students.
After practice, HKIS student rugby players gathered on the bleachers to meet and ask the players and coaches questions. Off the field, the team was casual and comfortable, chatting easily about their sport.
Center Danny Barrett explained that many of the players grew up focusing on American football or other sports before becoming dedicated to rugby.
“A lot of us started when we were like 14 or 15 as a way to stay in shape for football and then it kinda transformed into a love for the game," Barrett said. "It’s kind of like a dream for us that just kind of happened to come true.”
Hooker Zachary Test, who played American football in college, feels that rugby allowed him more range as a sport. “Football is very one-dimensional. You’re on for six seconds and then you're done, so it gets a little boring and mundane," Test said. "In rugby you get to do everything. I’d call it the greatest sport in the world, that’s why I chose it.”
When asked who their greatest competitor will be for the Hong Kong Sevens, winger Perry Baker immediately responded, “Ourselves”.
Some students laughed, but his sentiment was serious and echoed by team captain Madison Hughes, who plays rugby for Dartmouth. “We often like to say we’re our own worst enemy sometimes, like our biggest battle is with ourselves," Hughes said. "So we’ll just concentrate on turning up and playing as well as we can.”
Isles agreed: “Our biggest challenge will probably be ourselves, just executing and sticking to the game plan and doing things right and staying focused for 14 minutes."