Malaysia v Hong Kong
With less than 48 hours to go until the second match of the Asia Rugby Championship, both coaches have announced their sides.
Malaysia and Hong Kong have named strong starting XVs for the all-important ARC match to be played at the National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.
For the hosts, head coach Lee Nyuk Fah brings four new faces into the starting XV, as well as making two positional changes to the side that lost to Korea last weekend.
In the forwards there are changes with Syarif Nurhidayat Muzhaimey starting at openside flanker, and Timoci Vunimoku switching from number 8 to blindside flanker. In Vunimoku’s place comes Etonia Vaqa Saukuru with Sae Faaulupega moving into the second row, replacing Natahnael Tan Aik Ming who is ruled out with a broken jaw.
At full-back Samuela Tamanisau replaes Muhamed Amirul Aqil Kamsol who misses out after suffering a head injury last week, while there is a positional change with the wings switching sides.
For the visitors, they will be captained by James Cunningham and their starting XV includes three players who played at the recent Hong Kong Sevens, in the shape of flanker Toby Fenn and wings Max Denmark and Salom Yiu Kam Shing.
Although not playing this weekend Hong Kong Sevens captain Ben Rimene spoke about the opportunity for the side selected, and the possibility of qualifying for a Rugby World Cup in Asia.
“The team is really keen to perform,” said Rimene.
“I think the tight five will be dominant and give a good platform to play from, offering Liam (Slatem) and Roses (Matthew Rosslee) more options. But I feel like expansive, ball in hand play will pressure Malaysia’s defensive structures.
“Watch out too for young buck Max Denmark, the boy can run. The players are excited. Big Goose (James Cunningham) is the captain and will lead from the front.
“The squad knows this is just the first step on the journey so won’t be getting ahead of themselves. Malaysia and Korea are the focus for now.
“But qualifying for the World Cup would be huge for the country and for Hong Kong rugby.”
With one of the biggest opportunities for Hong Kong in recent years, Rimene stressed that extra preparation had been taking place.
“The coaches and the union staff have been working hard over the last three or four years to make the program what it is today.
“Strategies have been put in place for players to develop and succeed. Sports psychologist David Galbraith was a big help with the work he did with the entire group.
“There is a lot of work going on that people never see and it is always pushing the group to be better and this is the time for players to step up and perform.”
Hong Kong were unable to qualify for the main HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series after losing in the quarter-finals for a second successive year.
But on a personal note it was the first time Rimene had been named captain.
“Captaining the Hong Kong Sevens squad this year was definitely a proud moment and something I will remember.
“I was lucky enough to have my whole family in town as well. I had the support of coaches and other senior players so that makes things easier.”
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
Malaysia XV for Malaysia v Hong Kong
- Samuela Tamanisau, 14. Mohd Azmir Zanul Abdin, 13. Vatimio Rabebe, 12. Terence Gavidi, 11. Mohamad Aiman Jamaluddin, 10. Mohd Syahir Asraf Rosli (captain), 9. Muhd Nur Ikqwan Nordin, 8. Etonia Vaqa Saukuru, 7. Syarif Nurhidayat Muzhaimey, 6. Timoci Vunimoku, 5. Sae Faalupega, 4. Aporosa Duwailea, 3. Mohd Aliff Al Hafiz Abdul Kari, 2. Amirul Mukminim Amizan, 1. Amirul Sani
Hong Kong XV for Malaysia v Hong Kong
15.Jack Neville, 14. Salom Yiu Kam Shing, 13. Tyler Spitz, 12. Max Woodward, 11. Max Denmark, 10. Matthew Rosslee, 9. Liam Slatem, 8. Thomas Lamboley, 7. Toby Fenn, 6. Nicholas Hewson, 5. Jamie Pincott, 4. James Cunningham (captain), 3. Dylan Rogers, 2. Ben Roberts, 1. Daniel Barlow