United Arab Emirates v Hong Kong in Hong Kong (Asia5Nations)
Venue: Hong Kong Football Club
Referee: Akihiso Aso (Japan)
[Hong Kong, May 20, 2011]: It will be a winner-take-all humdinger when Hong Kong take on the United Arab Emirates in the final round of the HSBC Asian Five Nations Top Five tournament on Saturday (kick-off at 16.00 local time at the Hong Kong Football Club).
With perennial Asian champions Japan having already clinched the title for the fourth consecutive year all that is up for grabs is the runner-up position and boasting rights as the best amateur side in Asia – a position that both Hong Kong and UAE want fervently.
“We are not thinking of the outcome right now. All we are focused on is a good performance. if we do that, the results will follow,” insists Hong Kong national coach Dai Rees.
But there is no escaping the fact that a win at Hong Kong Football Club on Saturday will be a moment to savour for Hong Kong which is bidding to finish second for the first time in this competition.
Hong Kong currently lies in second place on the HSBC Asian Five Nations table on 11 points, while UAE is in third place with eight points. The five points on offer to the winner on Saturday will be enough to put either team clear into second.
Japan, who leads the competition with a perfect record of 18 points (five points and three bonus points for each victory to date), will be aiming to finish on another high when they take on relegation-bound Sri Lanka in Colombo.
Despite second place being up for grabs, UAE coach Bruce Birtwistle hasn’t been afraid to include four Emiratis in his squad – Cyrus Homayoun, Ali Mohammed, Abdullah Ahmed and Mohanned Shaker.
New Zealander Birtwistle, who departs home soon, has shaped a team who have taken on the mantle from the Arabian Gulf and emerged as a surprise package in the competition with a home win over Kazakhstan and a 13-13 draw away to Sri Lanka.
But they will be smarting after a 111-0 hammering at the hands of Japan last week, and will be keen to make amends. “We are looking for a big away win to finish off the season on a high. The guys are charged up after last week’s performance,” said Ian Bremner, UAE chief executive.
UAE captain Mike Cox-Hill reflected on last week’s performance saying, “Japan were relentless. They are the number 12 or 13 side in the world and are a fully professional team in a Rugby World Cup year, so we need to put that game behind us.”
“All of our focus is on Hong Kong. We are two evenly matched teams. We have been the surprise package in this year’s HSBC A5N to date. Finishing second in Asia would be a massive achievement for a Union like the UAE that is just moths old. We have some lofty goals for rugby in the region and that kind of placing would help us achieve those ambitions.”
Victory will hinge on whose forward pack can exert dominance. The UAE pack has provided the base for their surprising run at second place this season. Hong Kong will welcome the return of untiring lock-forward Oliver Jones. who returns after missing the last two outings due to injury.
But first-choice wingers Rowan Varty and Salom Yiu Kam-shing will be missing due to injuries picked up in the 48-3 win over Sri Lanka in Colombo a fortnight ago. The injuries make room for Alex McQueen and Adam Raby, who makes his HSBC A5N 2011 debut this weekend.
All eyes will be on Hong Kong’s young fly-half Keith Robertson who had a perfect game in Colombo, collecting 17 points including a brace of tries.
“He has come of age,” said Rees, who will be hoping his forwards can supply Robertson with plenty of good ball from the set pieces and contact areas so that the playmaker can put a dangerous backline into action.
“We need to focus on a couple of key areas in our defensive shape along with producing quality ball at set piece and contact area to allow our key runners to pressurise UAE,” Rees said.
“A win on Saturday will complete a good 2010/11 season which started back in November,” said Rees. “The team has worked hard to increase the skill levels and intensity in all aspects of the game. If the players maintain this focus, the result will look after itself.”
The Hong Kong Women’s XV will face Singapore tomorrow as a curtain-raiser to the Hong Kong v UAE match. Kick-off is at 13.00.
For more information on:
HSBC Asian 5 Nations/ARFU – contact Sean Moore, Tournament Operations Manager; Mob: +852 9095-8889 Email: email@example.com
Previous Arabian Gulf v Hong Kong
30.04.2010 Arabian Gulf 16-9 in Bahrain (Asia5Nations)
26.04.2008 Hong Kong 20-12 in Al Ain (Asia5Nations)
09.05.2004 Hong Kong 12-5 in Hong Kong (Friendly)
20.04.2002 Hong Kong 17-7 in Hong Kong (WCA Asia R1, Pool B)
26.01.2001 Arabian Gulf 55-22 in Dubai (Friendly)
GWC Rugby Rankings
Asia Table-Hong Kong 2nd, United Arab Emirates 3rd
IRB Ranking Points do not apply.
Prediction: Hong Kong by 26 points
Hong Kong Squad
1. Andrew Li (Kowloon), 2. Alex Harris (Kowloon), 3. Alex Ng Wai Shing (Valley), 4. Renaud Chavanis (Valley), 5. Ollie Jones (HKFC) 6. Nick Hewson (Valley) 7. Mark Goosen (Kowloon) 8. Pale Tauti (DeA) 9. Pete McKee (HKFC) 10. Keith Robertson (DeA) 11. Adam Raby (HKFC) 12. Lee Jones (Valley) 13. Tom McColl (C) (Kowloon) 14. Alex McQueen (HKCC) 15. Ross Armour (Valley) 16. Nigel Hobler (HKFC) 17. Brent Taylor (Valley) 18. Terence Montgomery (Valley) 19. Kwok Ka Chun (Kowloon) 20. Tim Alexander (Valley) 21. Jamie Hood (HKFC) 22. Simon Smith (Kowloon)
Head Coach: Dai Rees
1. Chris Jones Griffith 2. David Vittes 3. Mike Riley 4. Simon Osbourne 5. Mike Cox-Hill (C) 6. Renier Els 7. Jamie Clarke 8. Carl Von Rosenveldt 9. Stuart Quinn 10. Jonothon Grady 11. Steve Smith 12. Duncan Murray 13. John Beeton 14. Sean Hurley 15. Tim Fletcher 16. Dan Heal 17. Mohanned Shaker 18. Chris Deacon 19. Lloyd Budd 20. David Clouston 21. Michael Hartley 22. Ali Mohammed
Head Coach: Bruce Birtwistle