Woodward loses fitness battle

Sports | 6 Apr 2016

Hong Kong captain Max Woodward will sit out the Sevens after failing to return to full fitness.

Woodward suffered a thigh injury during the Borneo tournament last month and although his recovery progressed well, coach Gareth Baber has been forced to rest him to ensure he is ready for the final Olympic repechage event in Monaco in June.

Versatile back Jamie Hood will now captain a veteran-laden side that also includes three debutants for the Qualifier tournament, where promotion to next season's Sevens World Series awaits the winners.

Rowan Varty will make his 11th Hong Kong Sevens appearance, alongside Salom Yiu Kam-shing (seventh), Alex McQueen (sixth) and Lee Jones (fifth).

"It's a great honor to captain this team, but I'm gutted for Max that he hasn't been able to get right for this weekend," Hood said.

"Max has been awesome as a captain and he is a huge part of what we have been achieving over the last year. I've just got to try and do what he has been doing.

"Fortunately we have a side with a lot of experience that can balance the three guys on debut. Players like Varts [Varty], Alex and Salom are all very experienced and even the younger guys like Mike Coverdale and Chris Maize have played a lot of sevens and been in the Hong Kong Stadium on Sevens weekend before ... hopefully we'll go out and get the job done."

The squad also shows the early impact of the Hong Kong Rugby Union's newly launched Elite Rugby Program, the SAR's first fully professional platform for 15-a-side rugby, with all three ERP players involved in the sevens training squad being selected.

The three debutants include Hong Kong-born James Cunningham, who arrived at the beginning of the domestic season after playing rugby union and rugby league in Australia, including stints for the Manly Sea Eagles.

Cunningham is joined by fellow debutants Toby Fenn and Ryan Meacheam, who previously played for Waikato Sevens in New Zealand. SQUAD: Jamie Hood (captain), Michael Coverdale, James Cunningham, Toby Fenn, Lee Jones, Cado Lee Ka-to, Christopher Maize, Alex McQueen, Ryan Meacham, Ben Rimene, Rowan Varty, Salom Yiu Kam-shing

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