One of the contenders for the gold medal in the Elite and Women's Open comes from Asia, who have already felt the beautiful but intense perfume of the Algarve 7's in past editions: Hong Kong. This Asian rugby union side is looking to rise in the rugby environment and the Portuguese tournament in Vila Real de Santo António is the perfect stage to showcase their abilities and growth.
But will they be able to do it? And who will be their biggest assets in June? Sports Ventures had a talk with the captains, Max Woodward and Melody Li, to understand all there is to know about the effort and goals surrounding the Hong Kong 7's men and women squads.
INTERVIEW WITH MELODY LI AND NATASHA OLSON THORNE (HONG KONG 7’S F CAPTAINS)
Please answer below with your thoughts and words, and if you have any suggestions, please write them at the end of the page; both can answer the same question
EXTRA – As this interview is made to both, please rewrite under who replied back in each answer
Welcome, Melodi Li and Natasha Thorne, captains of the women's Hong Kong 7’s squad. How hard have your coaches been pushing you? Do you feel ready enough to tackle (and sidestep) the Algarve 7’s?
Natasha Olson-Thorne: Yes, over the last few months we’ve all been training hard and putting in the work. We’re excited now to have the chance to showcase the culmination of those efforts at the Algarve 7s.
This is not the first time that Hong Kong will be at this Portuguese tournament, as in 2019 you finished second in the Open Women. Are you going for the title this year? What are your main qualities?
Melody Li: We will want to win games for sure. But most importantly is to perform how we want to. We are also developing a few new players so we are looking to build through games and consolidate what we have worked on in trainings.
A long journey, tough months of preparation, and competitive opposition are what await you in the upcoming weeks. How thrilled are you? And what do you want to see in Vila Real de Santo António?
Natasha Olson-Thorne: We’re very thrilled to be able to play and test ourselves against different competition. We’ve been working hard to up-skill and develop our game, so being able to execute them in this competition will be a positive for us.
Do you agree that the 7’s variant can be a way to unlock new pathways for countries like Hong Kong to climb to a higher status in the future?
Melody Li: Yes. 7’s is a game which can be learnt quickly and not as tactically complicated compared to 15’s. We are fortunate to have the resources to train professionally to up our game too. The team has improved a lot throughout the years and looking to achieve more and participate in more world class games.
Tell us a bit more about yourselves… why rugby? And what is your focus and goal for the next couple of years?
Natasha Olson-Thorne: Rugby is a fun and physically challenging sport. There’s a position and place for everyone. Also, because it’s a team sport, you build a lot of friendships within the rugby community. A big goal for us in the upcoming couple years is a performance at the Asian Games.
INTERVIEW WITH MAX WOODWARD (HONG KONG 7’S M CAPTAIN)
Please answer below with your thoughts and words, and if you have any suggestions, please write them in the end of the page
Max Woodard, after two years of delays and cancellations, the Algarve 7’s is back on track, and Hong Kong will be here again to play the Sevens in the Sun. Are you ready to step into the green? What are your expectations for the tournament?
Max Woodward: We can't wait! It has been a long two years for us, we haven't played as many tournaments as we would have liked so we are really excited to play a great tournament against great teams. We expect the level of competition to be high, with a lot of tough games, the Algarve 7s is pretty much on par with a World Sevens Series event.
Hong Kong has been working non-stop to get back their growth on track, and what can you promise to the fans (and opposition) who will be in Vila Real de Santo António?
Max Woodward: Our team has gone through a lot of change over the last few years, we have come on enormously and we have some really exciting young players that are in great form. We want to really try to win this tournament this year, and hopefully play some great rugby, the conditions are always great for attacking rugby so we are looking forward to it
Is this your second time in the Algarve 7’s? If yes, what was the detail that made you fall in love with it? And if it will be your debut in the Portuguese tournament, can you name one detail that you are looking forward to?
Max Woodward: The weather and the beach, for sure!
Strong competition, joyful warm and sunny weather, and a beautiful setting to play 7’s, is this what 7’s all about to you? What makes it special for you?
Max Woodward: This is my second time playing in the Algarve 7s, the location is beautiful, close to the sea, the weather was great and the field was perfect, this plus the challenging games is the perfect combo for a 7s tournament.
Is this the type of tournament that the rugby, be it 7’s or 15, community needs to develop and achieve a higher level?
Max Woodward: For sure, we need more official competitions to run alongside the World Sevens Series, so teams like us can get exposure to top quality opposition. 7s is an exciting sport to watch and with more tournaments in good locations, this can only be a good thing for the game
How can you describe the type of rugby Hong Kong plays as a 7’s team? And are we into something special?
Max Woodward: We feel like we are building something special, we have a great mix of young lads and experienced older heads, we work hard for each other and make every game hard work for our opposition.
Final words for the readers at home, how would you “sell” the Algarve 7’s?
Max Woodward: Sea, sun and Liam Herbert in full flight. The dream…