Who to look out for at the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series 2022
We look at seven players who will hope to take the men’s and women’s Challenger Series tournaments in Santiago by storm.
Later this month, 12 men’s and 12 women’s teams will arrive in Santiago, Chile hoping to earn their place on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2023 as a core team.
Two places on the Series, one men’s and one women’s, is up for grabs at Estadio Santa Laura for the winners of the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series 2022.
Ahead of the one-off event, which is returning for the first time since 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we take a look at seven players who aim to help inspire their team to victory.
Diego Warnken (Chile)
Hosts Chile head into the men’s Challenger Series with hopes of securing their place as a core team on the 2023 Series.
Their hopes of emerging from a tough-looking Pool A in Santiago, in which they will play Korea, Papua New Guinea and Georgia, could rest on the young shoulders of Diego Warnken.
The 20-year-old was Los Cóndores’ standout performer on their most recent Series appearance in Edmonton last year, finishing the tournament with six tries in five matches.
Chile will need him at his prolific best at the Challenger Series next weekend if they are to go all the way and seal their core team status.
The World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series pools are locked in 🔒— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) July 13, 2022
Who will secure the top prize and take their place in the 2023 #HSBC7s series? 🏆 pic.twitter.com/kHs1gOrIO6
Tang Minglin (China)
A veteran of China’s most recent appearance on the women’s Series in Hamilton two years ago, when she scored a try in the 31-0 ninth-place play-off win against Spain, Tang Minglin is sure to be an important presence in Santiago.
Tang was also part of the squad that finished seventh at the Tokyo Olympic Games last year.
She started all six of her side’s matches in Tokyo, crossing the whitewash on four occasions – including in matches against Australia, France and Challenger Series rivals Japan.
China will need her to be at her best later this month, having been drawn in Pool D alongside South Africa, Kenya and hosts Chile.
Jack Hunt (Germany)
One of the most potent finishers in the Rugby Europe Men’s Sevens Championship, defenders in Santiago will do well to keep a close eye on Jack Hunt.
Having finished second in the try-scoring charts in this year’s Championship, Hunt helped Germany to Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022 qualification in Bucharest last month.
The 22-year-old has proven he can cut it at the highest level too, scoring eight tries in 10 appearances across the Series events in Malaga and Seville in January.
If Hunt can replicate that strike rate in Santiago, then Germany will be confident of booking their return to the Series as a core team.
Salom Kam Shing (Hong Kong)
A popular member of the Hong Kong men’s team for more than a decade, Salom Kam Shing will hope he can help his side go one step further than they did two years ago.
In 2020, Hong Kong finished second in the Challenger Series, three points behind champions Japan, following second- and third-place finishes in Viña del Mar and Montevideo.
Kam Shing, who made his Series debut back in 2010, scored six tries across those two tournaments and has been named in an experienced squad for this year’s one-off event.
Having already qualified for RWC Sevens 2022 in September, a strong performance in Santiago would be a timely boost for both Kam Shing and Hong Kong.
Anna Klichowska (Poland)
Captain when Poland reached the quarter-finals of the women’s Series tournament in Malaga, as an invitational side, in January, Anna Klichowska has been an integral part of the team’s recent rise.
Powerful in defence, Klichowska is also a player who possesses an eye for a gap and the pace to finish it off. An ideal skill set for sevens.
Since Malaga, Klichowska and her team-mates have won the Rugby Europe Women’s Sevens Championship and secured qualification for RWC Sevens 2022 in Cape Town.
In Santiago, they will hope to complete a hat-trick and wrap up what she told World Rugby recently is their “longed-for promotion to the Series”.
Hana Nagata (Japan)
Japan are bidding to return to the women’s Series as a core team for the first time since 2018 and can call on an experienced squad for the Challenger Series in Santiago.
Hana Nagata is one of those who has previously played both in the Series and at the Olympics.
The 22-year-old back highlighted her potential in Langford in April as she scored four tries in five matches, including a brace in a 45-0 defeat of Mexico.
Japan will again come up against Mexico in Pool F of the women’s Challenger Series, where they will also play Kazakhstan and Colombia for a place in the knockout rounds.
Philip Wokorach (Uganda)
No player scored more points at last week’s Commonwealth Games than Philip Wokorach’s 56, the experienced Ugandan finishing the men’s tournament with six tries and 13 conversions.
One of those tries gave Uganda a famous 12-12 draw with Australia in the pool stage, although he was unable to add the conversion or later penalty that would have turned it into victory.
Uganda went on to finish 10th at Coventry Stadium but will be happy with their work, having won three and lost only two of their six matches.
Those victories included wins against fellow Challenger Series sides Jamaica and Tonga, and Wokorach and his team-mates will hope they have similar success in Santiago later this month.