Hong Kong have retained 17 of the 23 players selected for their Asia Rugby Championship tie with Japan two weeks ago as they prepare for a crucial encounter with South Korea in Yesan on Saturday (11.00am kick-off, Hong Kong time).
Hong Kong have made just one change to the starting forward pack with Thomas Lamboley starting at No.8 with Dan Falvey out this weekend. Positional changes in the backline see Jamie Hood moving to fullback as cover for Alex McQueen, who is out with a strained calf; Cado Lee Ka-to will start at number nine to cover Hood’s move to the back.
Flanker Toby Fenn and prop Alex Ng Wai-shing have been brought into the reserves, joining hooker JW Markley, prop Angus Dixon and lock Kyle Sullivan in a five-to-three forwards to backs split on the bench. Winger Charlie Higson-Smith and fly halves Robbie Keith and Ben Rimene will start from the bench as the back-line reserves.
“There aren’t too many changes which is good,” said assistant coach Craig Hammond.
“Dan has stayed in Hong Kong awaiting the birth of his child, which gives Thomas a chance to start at No.8. Thomas has been really impressive in the last couple of games so this is another good opportunity for him to show us what he can do.
“With Jamie [Hood] dropping back to cover 15, Cado will start at scrumhalf. He looked really lively in the first two rounds, so starting him will give us a bit of an instant impact that will help against Korea,” noted Hammond.
Japan won the championship in Hong Kong on 13 May, leaving South Korea and Hong Kong to battle it out for second place. Hong Kong have had the better of the jockeying in recent years, including sweeping the Koreans last season, but enter Saturday’s tie under pressure on the table after Korea collected the first bonus point against Japan since 2008 in this year’s opening championship match.
Hong Kong have zero points to show for two hard-fought matches to date, while Korea hold a single point edge on the table.
The team is under no illusions about the importance of this match, said Hammond.
“Korea has really improved under the new coaches they brought in last year. They have just come back from a two-week training tour in New Zealand where they played some ITM Cup teams, so they have had a tough schedule to date and will no doubt be better for it.
“They have big mobile forwards so the set piece will be crucial. Their loose forwards and backs are not afraid to throw the ball around either, so they can create pressure from anywhere on the park. Korea play what we call a chaos style of rugby and we know that we will have to be able to shut that down.
“Having said that, we are not putting too much pressure on ourselves. Our big focus the past few weeks has been in dealing with that type of pressure and focusing on our defence. We did well in both of those areas against Japan and we need to carry that forward into this weekend.
Hong Kong will play in Yesan for the first time after Korea’s home ground, the Namdong Rugby Stadium, was unavailable due to the on-going FIFA U20s World Cup.
“It’s a new venue for us, but we understand that it is a wide pitch which is just the way the Koreans like it as they love to attack out wide. Saturday is going to be a new environment for us and another opportunity for us to respond positively and hopefully get a win, which would help remove some of the pressure of having to get a bonus point off them next week in Hong Kong.
“The key is to maintain our focus on what we are doing well, keep possession of the ball and generate the platform in the set piece that will hopefully allow us to score a few more tries.
“If we can do that and get the win, we shift that pressure back on to them and can count on coming home to close out the campaign in front of what will hopefully be a good partisan crowd. But it’s all about us getting our house in order first and that is what we are focused on,” added Hammond.
HKRU Squad for South Korea (Match 5, 2017 Asia Rugby Championship):
1. Ben HIGGINS (Valley), 2. Ben ROBERTS (HKCC, captain), 3 Dylan ROGERS (HKCC), 4. James CUNNINGHAM (Kowloon), 5. Adrian GRIFFITHS (HKCC), 6. Nick HEWSON (Valley), 7. Matt LAMMING (HKCC), 8. Thomas LAMBOLEY (Valley), 9. LEE Ka-to, Cado (USRC Tigers), 10. Matt ROSSLEE (Valley), 11. Ally MACLAY (Valley), 12. Lex KALECA (HK Scottish), 13. Tyler SPITZ (USRC Tigers), 14. YIU Kam-shing (USRC Tigers), 15. Jamie HOOD (HKFC), 16. JW MARKLEY (Valley), 17. Angus DIXON (Kowloon), 18. Alex NG Wai-shing (Valley), 19. Kyle SULLIVAN (HKS), 20. Toby FENN (Valley), 21. Charles HIGSON-SMITH (HKFC), 22. Robbie KEITH (USRC Tigers) 23. Ben RIMENE (Valley).
Article courtesy: HKRFU
Watch the Next Match Live:
May 27th, 2017:
Korea vs Hong Kong
In Korea: KBSN Sports (12 Noon ) (+9 GMT)
In Hong Kong And Asia: www.rugbypass.com (11 Am Hong Kong)
In New Zeland: Rugby Channel 64 : SKY (New Zealand 3 PM)
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