Hobbled Alexander to miss finale as HK eye runners-up spot
A dislocated left ankle, broken tibia and fractured finger has Player-of-the-Year Tim Alexander laid up in hospital as the 22-man Hong Kong squad fly out today for Almaty to play their final HSBC Asian Five Nations game against Kazakhstan on Sunday.
Livewire Valley scrumhalf Alexander injured himself against Singapore last Saturday after coming on as a replacement for Jeff Wong Chun-kiu. He will be out of action for four months.
'If you are going to get injured, this is probably the best time to do it, just one game before the season ends,' said Hong Kong head coach Dai Rees. 'We will miss Tim, but this gives us the opportunity to bring on Charles Cheung [Ho-ming] and continue our policy of player development.'
Cheung, 19, plays in the lower grades for Valley and has come through the rugby academy. He will start on the bench and is now in line for his first senior cap.
'It is important we continue to engage players in the international programme. We have only used 24 players in the three games,' Rees (pictured) said.
That number will rise to 27 by Sunday with two well-known faces - Keith Robertson and Ricky Cheuk Ming-yin - being called up for the first time in the A5N. Both are returning from injury.
Sevens ace Robertson is back from a leg infection and will replace Jonny Elliott on the bench, giving Rees cover in the backline. Cheuk, who has been out for the season with knee and hamstring problems, comes in for right-winger Simon Smith.
'Simon has had a good tournament but will stand down to allow our player-development policy to continue and strengthen the squad base for next season,' Rees said.
Smith will still be part of the squad, being taken along as insurance for centre Simon Hempel, who is scheduled to leave tomorrow.
'Simon [Hempel] couldn't leave with the rest of the squad due to family commitments. We are taking the other Simon [Smith] along in case there are any problems for Hempel like delayed flights etc,' Rees said.
'I don't like going away with 21 players.'
Hong Kong can finish second to winners Japan. But they need to beat Kazakhstan with a bonus point - by scoring at least four tries - to ensure they overhaul South Korea. If Hong Kong win without a bonus point they will be level with Korea on points, but the Koreans will finish second based on the result between the two teams [36-34 to Korea]. The final scenario can see Kazakhstan grab second place by beating Hong Kong.
'I want Hong Kong to continue to concentrate on performance and the result will look after itself. Kazakhstan will be physical and robust at the set piece and contact area but we must play our own game and take away the physical element of their game,' Rees said.