[Hong Kong, 28 April 2011]
Fresh from a key away win in the HSBC Asian Five Nations 2011, the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union (HKRFU) has announced the squad for its first home match of thtournament against Japan on Saturday at Hong Kong Football Club (30 April, Kick-off at 16.00).
The team features five changes ahead of what is sure to be an imposing challenge from Rugby World Cup 2011-bound Japan. Hong Kong’s changes are all enforced by recent injuries with the majority of the changes coming in the forward pack.
HKRFU National Coach and Head of Performance Dai Rees commented on the selection saying, “We have had to make five changes to the team for this weekend, but the incoming players have been involved with us throughout the build-up and I am confident that they will step up to the challenge.”
“Most of the changes come in the forward pack and fortunately we have been able to retain some consistency with an unchanged backline. I think this is the best backline we have been able to put out for a number of years. The emphasis this week will again be on the forwards to provide ball and a reasonable platform for us to compete. We need to ensure that Japan doesn’t build momentum like they did last year in Tokyo,” added Rees.
The core of the team that upset Kazakhstan for the first time on the road last Saturday has been kept intact with modifications in the scrum at hooker and in the locks with Valley’s Alex Harris replacing an injured Brent Taylor at hooker and Renaud Chavanis coming in at second row. DeA’s Michael Waller takes the other second row spot replacing Oliver Jones who suffered a hand injury in training this week.
Hong Kong has kept faith with its two young props Andy Li and Alex Ng who will face a stern test for the second week in a row. The starting backline remains unchanged from last weekend with DeA’s Matthew Nuttall and HKCC’s Alex McQueen joining the reserves bench.
While Hong Kong has faced the challenge of opening away to Asia’s number two side Kazakhstan before facing top-ranked Japan, the Japanese have been continuing their build-up for the Rugby World Cup with an eight day training camp in Hong Kong. It is widely expected that John Kirwan will run out his full-look Rugby World Cup XV throughout the HSBC Asian 5 Nations for match experience.
“Making changes ahead of Japan isn’t ideal,” admitted Rees, “But we know what Japan are. Japan is the biggest test match we have on an annual basis and is the key clash for our 15-aside players each year. Playing Japan lets us know how good we are as players and as a team, and the lads relish that challenge.”
Hong Kong’s crucial opening match win should see them in good stead to retain their Top 5 spot in 2012. But the team is intent on keeping their foot on the gas ahead of crucial clashes against Sri Lanka (in Colombo on May 7) and UAE (at HKFC on May 21). At stake is the opportunity to capture honours as Asia’s second best team in 2011.
Hong Kong Senior Coach Leigh Jones said, “We have done well to get an away win but we cannot afford to let up even for a moment in this tournament. Maintaining our intensity and consistency of performance is vital at this level and key to ensuring that we achieve our goals as a team.”
A women’s match between the Hong Kong and Japan national teams will also be held on Saturday, (kick-off at 13.00). Last year, Japan edged Hong Kong’s women’s team 17-nil in Tokyo in an exciting match played as an HSBC Asian 5 Nations curtain raiser in front of over 7,000 spectators.
In the other HSBC Asian 5 Nations match this weekend, UAE host Kazakhstan at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi on Friday evening, April 29, 2011 (kick-off at 19.00 local time).
Hong Kong Squad for Japan:
Andrew Li (Kowloon) 2. Alex Harris (Kowloon) 3. NG Wai Shing, Alex (Valley) 4. Renaud Chavanis (Valley) 5. Michael Waller (DeA) 6. Nick Hewson 7. Mark Goosen (Kowloon) 8. Pale Tauti (DeA) 9. Peter McKee (HKFC) 10. Keith Robertson (DeA) 11. Rowan Varty (DeA) 12. Lee Jones 13. Tom McColl © 14. YIU Kam Shing, Salom (Valley) 15. Ross Armour (Valley) 16. CHIK Man Hon, Alvin (Valley) 17. Pete Spizziri (HKFC) 18. Matthew Nuttall (DeA) 19. Terence Montgomery (Valley) 20. Tim Alexander (Valley) 21. Jamie Hood (HKFC) 21. Alex McQueen (HKCC)
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