HK climb to 32 in world rankings
Hong Kong have climbed five places in the world rankings to 32, as they prepare to test their new-found strength against Asian powerhouses Japan this weekend.
But head coach Dai Rees (pictured) is not getting carried away with the ascent -courtesy of the away win over Kazakhstan in the opening game in the HSBC Asian Five Nations Top Five competition- preferring to keep his focus on finishing in the top three in Asia, a goal made easier by the 23-10 victory in Almaty.
'Yes, we have moved up five places, but this doesn't mean anything, considering we are one of the few Asian tier-three nations who play a lot of internationals, and against better opposition, especially in Europe,' Rees said.
Hong Kong will meet defending champions Japan on Saturday at Hong Kong Football Club. Japan, ranked 13th in the world, will be fielding players from the World Cup squad. Hong Kong lost 94-5 in Tokyo last year.
'While it is nice to move up, you must remember we were 37th in the world before this tournament began simply due to the fact we travelled to Europe last December and played against some higher-ranked teams,' Rees said.
'We play more games and all for the right reason -to put in place a team for the HSBC Asian Five Nations and the benefits are being seen already.'
Over the past two years, in December, Hong Kong have travelled to Europe to play the likes of Germany and the Czech Republic. These tours have drawn criticism from certain sections within the rugby community with the feeling it was a waste of time.
This has incensed Rees and the team management who feel the critics have failed to see the true picture.
'The reason we did so well in Kazakhstan -winning away for the first time in Almaty- was due to the fact our players had been together for six months and played four internationals before the Asian Five Nations.
'We would have had 11 new players in the squad if not for the tour of Europe and the one-off test against the Philippines. By playing together, we had the right combinations in place well before this competition began.'