Hong Kong are set for their Asia Rugby Championship 2018 debut having watched from afar as Korea beat Malaysia 35-10 in the opening match.For the visitors, it will be a chance to show what they are made of in this all-important Championship that is doubling up as the next stage of Rugby World Cup 2019 qualification in Asia.
Being played at the 87,5000 capacity Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur which was built for the 1998 Commonwealth Games, Hong Kong are set for their opening encounter with the hosts.
“Malaysia are a team which will play from anywhere on the park,” said Hong Kong captain James Cunningham.
“They have the ability to create something from nothing, which our players have all been made very aware of.”
Having finished second in all three Top 3 competitions so far and as the highest ranked side in the competition, Hong Kong go into the Championship as the favourites to progress to the next phase of Rugby World Cup qualification.
Rugby World Cup 2019 qualification
That would mean a home and away play-off against the Cook Islands for a spot in the global repechage for the 20th and final spot for next year’s tournament.
“For us to progress through this round to the play-off against Cook Islands would be not only huge for us as a playing group and as a team who’s worked so hard to build the squad to where we are now, but the whole rugby community within Hong Kong,” added Cunningham.
“It would start to create hype in the game and give us the belief we need, not only internally, but also externally to get us all the way to Japan in 2019. Getting to that point would prove to everyone how far we’ve really come.”
It will be the first time the two sides have met since 1996, and although that score line saw Hong Kong win 103-5, Malaysia demonstrated last weekend they have improved a lot and should not be taken lightly.
“It’s great to have Malaysia in this year’s Asia Rugby Championship. They bring freshness to the competition along with a very good brand of rugby,” explained head coach .
“They, of course, bring an element of the unknown from Hong Kong’s perspective, and we’re a little unsure of what to expect from them. That means we will pay them maximum respect in our preparation and select our strongest team to play against them.
“This will be the third week we have trained together as a national squad, the challenge as it always is, is to integrate three distinct groups as well as we can, and get everyone on the same page for the first game verses Malaysia.
“Preparation to date has gone well, and we are pleased with where we are.”
“Our coaches have trained us to be the fittest, fastest and strongest team in Asia,” added Cunningham.
You can watch the game live on Asia Rugby’s Facebook channel, with the match being streamed around the world.
Watch here: http://bit.ly/ARC-Live