UAE encounter gives HK chance to blood new talent
Hong Kong are expected to blood all seven new faces in the squad against hosts the United Arab Emirates in the opening game of the inaugural Emirates Airlines Cup of Nations today.
Scrumhalf Cado Lee Ka-to, tighthead prop Stephen Nolan and second-rower Dan Watson will be in the starting line-up but head coach Dai Rees has made it clear that hooker Tom Bolland, loose head prop Ian Ridgeway and backs Bill Brant and Edward Haynes will also get a run in the first game in the four-nation tournament.
'There will be three debutants in the starting line-up but all the other new faces are poised to make their first international appearance for Hong Kong,' said Rees.
Kowloon scrumhalf Lee has come into the picture after Ally Maclay withdrew with a hamstring injury. The last-minute withdrawal has forced a reshuffle behind the scrum and it is hoped that Maclay will recover soon with Hong Kong playing three games in seven days.
'We also didn't consider [flanker] Mark Goosen for selection as he is also still recovering from a hamstring injury,' said Rees who is looking forward to the first 15s game this season.
Home team UAE is familiar opposition, having played in the HSBC Asian Five Nations Top Five competition in past seasons. They are expected to be the easiest opponents in this new event, with Brazil and Kenya expected to be more formidable.
The new tournament, supported by the International Rugby Board, will be important, as it will give Hong Kong the chance to move up the world rankings. Hong Kong is currently ranked 29th. Brazil is one place behind while Kenya is 39th.
Hong Kong squad
1-Andy Li, 2-Alex Harris, 3-Steve Nolan, 4-Dan Watson, 5-Mike Waller, 6-Terence Montgomery, 7-Nick Hewson, 8-Pale Tauti (captain), 9-Cado Lee, 10-Keith Robertson, 11-Salom Yiu Kam-shing, 12-Lee Jones, 13-Alex McQueen, 14-Tom McQueen, 15-Rowan Varty. Replacements: 16-Tom Bolland, 17-Alex Ng Wai-shing, 18-Ian Ridgway, 19-Charles French, 20-Billy Brant, 21-Tim Alexander, 22-Ed Haynes.