Hong Kong v Philippines in Manilla (WCQ Asia; Asia Five Nations)
Venue: Rizal Memorial Stadium
Referee: Taizo Hirabayashi (Japan)
[Manila, Philippines, May 3, 2013]: A proud record of never having lost a home game in the HSBC Asian Five Nations (HSBC A5N) will be under severe examination at the Rizal Stadium on Saturday when the Philippines takes on Hong Kong in the Top Five competition.
The Philippines Rugby Football Union estimates a crowd of around 4,000 to turn up for the first home outing in the Top Five. The vocal crowd support, along with the expected hot and humid conditions with temperatures likely to reach 35 degrees centigrade, will prove a tricky combination for favourites Hong Kong to overcome.
“Hong Kong will always be a challenge but we are hoping the conditions at home will help us in our first home game at the Premier level,” said Matt Cullen, former PRFU coach and current chairman of selectors.
“The home support will be a huge advantage to the boys. We have never lost a game in the A5N playing at home and I hope that record will be extended. But it will be tough,” Cullen admitted.
The Philippines promoted from Division One last year were given a rude baptism by Japan a fortnight ago in Fukuoka being routed by a record 121-0 including 18 tries.
They have since re-grouped and have been in camp for the last two weeks preparing for the Hong Kong game, the second of four matches this season in the elite competition, which also includes South Korea and the United Arab Emirates.
“It was a huge learning curve for us coming up against Japan but I know the guys have bounced back and are looking forward to this game. It will be very competitive for we know Hong Kong are strong, but this is the level of competition you can expect at the top end,” Cullen said.
The Philippines will field a largely unchanged side to that which ran out against Japan with fullback Michael Letts leading the team which comprises primarily Filipino heritage players, (those players of mixed Filipino-international parentage), six of whom ply their trade in Japan’s professional Top League.
The Philippines will miss their Australian coach Jarred Hodges who has had to rush back home due to a serious illness in the family with assistant coach Stuart Woodhouse taking over the reins for this weekend’s test match.
“The plan is to try and keep up our intensity for more than the first 20 minutes we showed in the Japan game,” said Cullen. “If we can keep this intensity for the entire first half, then we can re-assess at the break and go out and attack Hong Kong.”
Hong Kong will be back at full-strength with the return of loosehead props Ian Ridgway and Jack Bennett, both of whom have yet to figure in this season’s campaign.
Head coach Leigh Jones has also had to make a couple of enforced changes in the backline with Mike Glancy replacing Niall Rowark at flyhalf while centre Stewart Megaw is out for the rest of the competition with a broken hand picked up in last week’s 38-0 defeat to Japan.
Megaw is replaced by Ally Maclay who will partner David Whiteford in midfield. Maclay’s position on the wing will be taken up by Sebastien Alfonsi.
Jones is not underestimating the threat posed by the Philippines and has warned his team to expect a stern test. Hong Kong has a 1-1 record so far in the competition having beaten UAE 53-7 in their opener a fortnight ago.
“The Philippines were in Japan’s faces for the first 20 to 25 minutes and we can expect a torrid time. We will have to keep our shape and composure in the opening minutes if we are to come out winners,” Jones said.
Cullen added: “Our aim is to stay up this year so that we can have a crack at World Cup qualifying next year. To do this we have to win at least one game. We ran South Korea close the last time we played them (in 2011) losing by a couple of tries, the last of which came at the death in that game, and we feel we can beat UAE who we play last at home on May 18. But our hope is that we won’t have to enter that game in a must-win position.”
GWC Rugby Rankings
Asia Table-Hong Kong 3rd, Philippines 8th
IRB Ranking Points
Hong Kong 55.65, Philippines 44.35
Prediction: Hong Kong by 35 points
|15||Thomas McCill (Capt.)||Kowloon|
|13||Alastair Maclay||Hong Kong Football Club|
|12||David Whiteford||Hong Kong Scottish|
|11||Sebastien Alfonsi||DEA Tigers|
|10||Michael Glancy||Hong Kong Scottish|
|9||Peter McKee||Hong Kong Football Club|
|8||Pale Tauti||DEA Tigers|
|7||Matthew Lamming||Hong Kong Cricket Club|
|5||Charles French||Hong Kong Cricket Club|
|4||William Hunt||Hong Kong Football Club|
|3||James Cooper||DEA Tigers|
|2||Thomas Bolland||Hong Kong Football Club|
|18||Stephen Nolan||Hong Kong Football Club|
|19||Daniel Watson||Hong Kong Football Club|
|23||Charles Cheung||DEA Tigers|
|HEAD COACH: Leigh Jones|
|15||Michael Letts (Capt.)||Kamaishi, Japan|
|14||Joseph Matthews||Queanbeyan RFC, Australia|
|13||Gareth Holgate||Kyudun, Japan|
|12||Justin Coveney||Western Red Sharks, Japan|
|11||Matthew Saunders||NTT, Japan|
|10||Alexander Aronson||California Golden Bears RFC, USA|
|9||James Price||Kyudun, Japan|
|8||Christopher Hitch||Warnervale RFC, Australia|
|7||Darran Seeto||Gordon Highlanders RFC, Austr.|
|6||Terrence Carroll||Western Bulldogs RLFC, Austr.|
|5||David Feeney||Manilla Nomads|
|4||Stephen Howorth||St Austell RFC, England|
|3||Matthew Bellenie||Brighton RFC, England|
|2||Graeme Hagan||Pattaya Panthers|
|1||Austin Dacanay||Tampa Crewe RFC, USA|
|16||David Robinson-Polkey||Mt Wellington RFC, New Zealand|
|17||Michael Duhig||Brothers RFC, Australia|
|18||Joshua Bautista||Santa Rosa, USA|
|21||Jake Letts||Kamaishi, Japan|
|22||Benjamin Saunders||West Tigers RLFC, Australia|
|23||Jefferey Gregson||Coventry RFC, England|
|HEAD COACH Stuart Woodhouse (interim)|