VANCOUVER, BC - A select group of high schoolers will embark on an international rugby tour on Sunday, March 23rd when the BC Elite Youth Sevens Under-18 provincial team heads to Hong Kong to defend their title at the Standard Chartered Bank International Youth Sevens.
A total of 12 age grade BC provincial representatives will be on the tour which is designed to mirror the travel and competition that senior national team players experience on the IRB Sevens World Series circuit. The BC Elite Youth Sevens (BCEY7's) program was implemented to identify, train and develop athletes who can go on to represent their regions, their province and Canada at age grade level and beyond.
This will be head coach Shane Thompson's third trip to Hong Kong with the youth program and the former national team Captain and Coach is excited about the experiences his players will be exposed to during the trip.
"This program is meant to prepare players for that next step up and this tour mimics what the national teams are doing when they have to deal with travel, a short turnaround and then be required to perform against international competition," said Thompson. "It's also great for these guys to experience the culture of Hong Kong where we will be moving around on foot and using the subways and ferries to get around town."
The young players will be practicing with the world-renowned international touring Penguins program and will meet Team Canada as they prepare for the Hong Kong Sevens senior event.
"Attending the senior tournament in itself should be an experience for these young guys with 40,000 people screaming and cheering in the stands," Thompson added. "Hopefully this will get their attention and have them striving to make it to the next level and experience international rugby sevens."
The BC provincial roster was selected from the program's recent tour to Las Vegas which saw Thompson enter three teams into the Elite and Open high school divisions. The U18 BC-Gold squad finished as runner-ups to national side USA High School All Americans in the Elites Cup Final.
The squad was hosted by Brentwood College this past Saturday and Sunday where Thompson was able to provide video analysis of matches from Vegas and to fine tune the team's plans for Hong Kong.
"With only 12 players it was great to be able to go over specifics where we worked a lot on defensive structures and made sure to use the width of the field going forward," said Thompson. "We don't' have to score every time we touch the ball and it's important these players understand that the opportunities will come without having to force ahead on attack."
The BCEY7's are two-time defending champions at the Hong Kong youth event and with a mix of returning veterans and rising young talent, Thompson is hoping for a rare three-peat. Five players were on the BC-Gold senior squad in Vegas and the list includes Hong Kong returnee Cole Keffer (North Vancouver) as well as George Barton (Duncan), Tyler Beselt (Shawnigan), Joseph Carter (Cloverdale) and Jason Hignell (Abbotsford).
"This is one of the younger teams that we have taken to Hong Kong but there is a ton of potential in this group," Thompson added. "This is Cole's second trip to Hong Kong and we're looking for him to be a leader on this tour. Tyler and Jo [Carter] didn't have a ton of playing time in Vegas so this will be their time to shine and we're really hoping they rise to the challenge. "
The team is set to play their tournament on March 27th at King's Park Sports Ground before taking in the senior Hong Kong Sevens as spectators.
This year's opposition in the youth tournament is set to feature local Hong Kong rugby clubs as well as competition from Singapore, Dubai, China, Thailand and Russia.
BC Elite Youth Sevens Roster - Hong Kong 2014 Tour
1. George Barton (Shawnigan Lake School / Cowichan Rugby Club / Duncan, BC)
2. Tyler Beselt (Shawnigan Lake School / Cowican Rugby Club / Shawnigan, BC)
3. Joseph Carter (Lord Tweedsmuir / Bayside AA / Cloverdale, BC)
4. Elias Ergas (Collingwood School / Capilano RFC / Vancouver, BC)
5. Matt Gallagher (Semiahmoo / Bayside AA / South Surrey, BC)
6. Ryan Gray (Mulgrave / Capilano RFC / Sydney, Australia)
7. Aaron Hersant (Brentwood College / Victoria, BC)
8. Jason Hignell (Yale Secondary / Abbotsford RFC / Abbotsford, BC)
9. Cole Keffer (Sutherland Secondary / Capilano RFC / North Vancouver, BC)
10. Liam Mahon (West Van Secondary / Capilano RFC / West Vancouver, BC)
11. Cali Martinez (Earl Marriott / Bayside AA / White Rock, BC)
12. Wesley Wong (Shawnigan Lake School / Hong Kong)
Head Coach: Shane Thompson
Manager: Doug Tate
Physio: Gareth Adams
The BC Elite Youth Sevens program is proudly sponsored by Adera.