Cheuk back for Kazakhstan clash, looking for new lease on life
The wheel has turned full circle for Ricky Cheuk Ming-yin, who will try to help Hong Kong finish the HSBC Asian Five Nations on a high by defeating Kazakhstan in Almaty tomorrow.
It was one year ago that Cheuk was injured against Kazakhstan, and the winger felt the symmetry was just perfect as he attempts to make a successful comeback and stake a permanent place in the team.
'I want to push from here on. I have been desperate to get back and I hope this is a new lease on life for me,' said the 26-year-old. 'The wheel has turned one cycle and I'm glad to get the chance again.'
Known more for his sevens skills - Cheuk captained Hong Kong at the last Asian Games in Doha - he has also won 15 caps on the wing at 15s. But he has only played one game in the A5N, last year's 23-17 win at home over Kazakhstan.
'I was coming back from a knee reconstruction at the time, but in that game I snapped my cruciate ligament and that had to be cleaned up,' Cheuk said.
The last year has been one of frustration. Cheuk had hoped to win back his place in the sevens team for the World Cup in Dubai and the Hong Kong Sevens, but he failed to pass a fitness test.
Once regarded as one of the fastest wingers, Cheuk will have a battle on his hands to cement his place with Adam Raby and Simon Smith firing on all cylinders. The latter had to step down to make way for Cheuk as head coach Dai Rees looks at giving every player a chance to prove himself.
'There is more competition now,' Cheuk conceded. 'But I'm used to it. When I first started out, there were players like Matt Reede out on the wing. I just have to keep improving myself.'
Cheuk will be the only enforced change to the starting line-up, which figured in the 64-6 victory over Singapore last week.
The other change is in the forwards, with Ivan Zenovic winning back his place in the second row, resulting in Angus Washington moving to the bench.
Hong Kong will be aiming to defeat Kazakhstan with a bonus point so they can secure the runners-up slot in the Top 5 next to champions Japan. If they win, but fail to score four tries, South Korea will finish second. A defeat will see Kazakhstan grab second place and Hong Kong finish fourth behind Korea.