Hong Kong’s starting fifteen from last week’s 43-17 win over South Korea have retained their spots for the re-match in Saturday’s Asia Rugby Championship finale at Hong Kong Football Club (16.00).
“Luckily, we didn’t have any injuries last week and we feel we played reasonably well, so Leigh has rewarded the starting fifteen with starts again this week,” said hooker Ben Roberts, who has captained the squad for the first time in this season’s championship.
“It’s been a challenging campaign, with a lot of new caps and faces, but I think last week was one of the most experienced teams that we have run out, which makes my job as captain easier. The experienced guys take the lead and as captain you just steer the ship a bit,” added the 29-year old Roberts.
The away win in Yesan propelled Hong Kong to second place in the championship standings on five points, and brought Hong Kong’s winning streak against Korea to five tests.
Bottom-ranked South Korea will be out to avenge last week’s poor showing, keenly aware that a bonus point win – and holding Hong Kong out of the bonus, would see them overturn the hosts for second place behind winners Japan.
Korea have a history of upending the hosts at Football Club, having won there in 2012 (21-19) and on their last successful outing against Hong Kong in 2015 (33-26).
Roberts says Hong Kong is prepared for that backlash: “We are expecting a bit of a rebellion from Korea. They have made some changes to their team by the looks of it and we know that they are a proud side. They will be wounded and will want to come fighting back.
“There has been a massive focus this week on that. The coaches have done a good job of grounding us ready for tomorrow.”
Roberts believes that the side’s fitness, a result of the intensive work being done in the HKRU Elite Rugby Programme, was a key to the success in Korea and will need to come to the fore again tomorrow.
“We need to run. Run, run and run some more; we spoke this week about being relentless. That fitness paid off last week and we need to do more of the same. It should be hot and humid and Korea won’t be as used to that as we are, so we want to capitalize on that and try and run them into the ground,” he added.
The high-octane victory in Yesan had coach Leigh Jones feeling Hong Kong were turning a corner in their development and with the advent of professionalism in the local game he will no doubt be expecting his side to reprise that form at home.
“There has been obvious progress this season,” said Roberts. “We’ve played reasonably well and achieved some targets. It’s probably the first year we’ve had parity in the forwards, particularly in the scrum.
“We didn’t perform quite as well in the scrum last week so we’ve been focusing on that as we expect Korea to be strong up front again.
“But last week is a distant memory now. All the focus has been towards us playing well again tomorrow; backing that performance up is so important for us,” Roberts said.
The only changes to the squad are injury-enforced and on the bench. Prop Rohan Cook comes in to replace Angus Dixon who is out with a hamstring injury, while No.8 Dan Falvey returns to the side, edging Robbie Keith out of the match-day 23, as Jones opts for a six-to-two forwards to backs split in the reserves for the first time in the series. The two backs on the bench are Ben Rimene and Charles Higson-Smith.
Hong Kong V Korea
Match Date : Saturday, June 3rd 2017
Venue : Hong Kong Football Club , Hong Kong
Admisison is FREE
Hong Kong Squad for South Korea ( 2017 Asia Rugby Championship):
- 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. Rohan COOK (HKCC), 18. Alex NG Wai-shing (Valley), 19. Kyle SULLIVAN (HKS), 20. Toby FENN (Valley), 21. Dan FALVEY (HKFC), 22. Be RIMENE (Valley), 23. Charles HIGSON-SMITH (HKFC).