Autumn dates a blow to HK's World Cup hopes
HONG Kong's hopes of qualifying for the 1995 World Cup were dealt a blow with yesterday's decision to hold next year's Asian Rugby Football Tournament - which will double as a regional qualifier - in autumn rather than spring.
The Asian Rugby Football Union executive committee, meeting in Kuala Lumpur where the tournament will be held, had to choose between dates in April and October.
They settled for October 22-29, keeping to the tradition of playing the biennial tournament in autumn.
Moves had been made to bring the dates forward to April as, originally, all World Cup qualifiers had to be finished before September, 1994.
And the April dates would have suited Hong Kong perfectly, coming at the tail-end of the domestic season.
But the October dates mean national coach George Simpkin will have to keep his squad together during summer - always a difficult task in Hong Kong.
''We would have preferred the tournament to be played in April. The players would have been match-fit and raring to go,'' said Peter Burbidge-King, Hong Kong manager.
This is not a new problem that Simpkin confronts. He faced a similar situation in the run-up to last year's Asian tournament in South Korea, where Hong Kong finished runners-up to Japan.
This time the stakes are higher, as only a first place finish will mean a trip to the World Cup in South Africa.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong Football Club won their first piece of silverware this season when they won the Kowloon Carlsberg 10s, beating Kowloon Lions 47-0 in the final, at Tai Hang Tung yesterday.
The result came as no surprise as Club were the only side playing at something approaching normal strength.
The other entrants put fairly weak sides out, some of them losing players to the annual Trailwalker hike.
In any event, the 10s turned out to be a farce with at least five sides not turning up, a spate of walkovers and teams being so clearly under-strength.
Next season, the fixtures secretary might well consider moving the tournament to the start of the season or to the spring, just before the international club 10-a-sides.
The only competitive match yesterday was the B Division Cup final between Gai Wu and Causeway Bay, won 21-0 by Gai Wu. It was an intense contest with three Causeway Bay players going off injured, one to hospital with a broken jaw.