Three HK forwards may miss Japan showdown
Hong Kong could travel to Tokyo for the crucial last game against Japan in the HSBC Asian Five Nations Top Five competition on May 22 missing three of the back five forwards who started last week against Kazakhstan.
Two are definitely out - second-rower Nigel Clarke, who has returned to England, and blindside flanker Nick Hewson, who has a broken arm - but a question mark hangs over the third player, openside flanker Mark Wright. 'Mark has badly sprained his ankle and right now it is 50-50 if he will be fit for Japan,' said head coach Dai Rees. 'But we will definitely miss Nick Hewson and Nigel Clarke.'
Fortunately, Hong Kong have cover in all departments. Kwok Ka-chun, who has so far come off the bench in all three previous games, is set to start for the first time and replace Hewson, while Clarke's position will be filled by James Stokes, who won his first cap playing the last quarter against Kazakhstan.
If Wright does not recover in time, Rory Hussey, who also won his first cap in last weekend's 19-15 win over Kazakhstan, could start against Japan.
'We have got strength in depth, although we will still miss guys like Clarke and Hewson, who were both significant members of the pack,' Rees said.
In the backs, Hong Kong will be without winger Tom McQueen, who has returned to university in Australia. 'We always knew Tom would not be available for the last game. But this gives others like Adam Raby the opportunity to come back into contention,' Rees said.
Hong Kong have a bye this weekend and will watch with special interest the game in Tokyo, where Japan host Kazakhstan. The other match will be between the Arabian Gulf and South Korea in Dubai.
Favourites Japan lead the standings with a maximum 12 points from two games and are certain to win Asia's automatic place in next year's World Cup.
They are followed by Hong Kong (12 points from three games) and Kazakhstan (seven points from two games), who both have a chance of claiming the runners-up slot and booking the berth in the repechage play-off against Uruguay.
'I still believe our fate is in our hands,' Rees said.