Captain warns HK not to take UAE lightly
Hong Kong captain Pale Tauti has warned his team to remember the debacle that they suffered in Bahrain two years ago as they take on the United Arab Emirates in the opening game of the HSBC Asian Five Nations Top Five tournament on Friday.
As Hong Kong leave for Dubai this evening, No8 Tauti will hark back to the mortifying 16-9 loss at the hands of the then Arabian Gulf in the 2010 edition of this tournament.
'We have beaten the UAE quite convincingly the last couple of times we have played them, but we also remember what happened to us two years ago in Bahrain. So right now, all I'm concerned is about getting past this first hurdle; everything else will then fall into place,' said Tauti, captaining Hong Kong for the first time in the Asian Five Nations.
Hong Kong piled on massive half-century scores over the UAE on the last two occasions they met - in last year's A5N (62-3) and the inaugural Cup of Nations (72-14) last December. But Tauti insists nothing will be taken for granted as Hong Kong look at conquering Asia for the first time. 'Japan, South Korea and Kazakhstan [the rest of the opposition] will take care of itself,' said Tauti.
'This is a new and different campaign and we all want to do well and get off to a good, solid start.'
Runners-up to perennial champions Japan - who went through the last four A5N seasons undefeated - Hong Kong will embark for Dubai with their sights set on toppling the Asian juggernaut, whom they meet next month in Tokyo.
The A5N couldn't have come faster for Tauti, as it will be the end of a frustrating few months. The 31-year-old pulled out of the Hong Kong sevens squad earlier this year after straining his groin. Realising what an invaluable presence he brings to 15s, the management advised Tauti to step away from the abbreviated version. 'My body wasn't able to cope with sevens and 15s training and I had to make a decision,' Tauti said yesterday. 'For the sake of my longevity, I decided to step away from sevens so that, maybe, I could play another season or two in 15s.'
Senior coach Leigh Jones will be thankful for that decision with a question mark hanging over a couple of key forwards on the eve of departure. Tighthead prop Steve Nolan is still not 100 per cent recovered from an ankle injury while work commitments could see veteran flanker Mark Goosen being unavailable.
If the latter is lost, it will place more of an onus on Tauti. But he is not worried on that front.
'We have enough leaders in the team. My job will be easy. All I will have to do is to focus on my own game,' Tauti said.
Year the Asian Five Nations began •Japan have been the dominant power from the start