Key playmaker Keith Robertson is expected to take his place at flyhalf against Japan when Hong Kong travel to Tokyo for next Saturday's game in the HSBC Asian Five Nations Top Five competition.
Robertson, who sat out last weekend's defeat to South Korea with a shoulder injury, was picked in the 22-strong touring party named yesterday by coaches Dai Rees and Leigh Jones, who have made five changes to the squad that lost 21-19 to Korea.
That setback resulted in Hong Kong slipping down the IRB world rankings to 29th place from 26th, but what was more disappointing is that it might have ended hopes of retaining the No2 position in Asia, a spot the Koreans are now fancied to fill.
'We are disappointed with that result against Korea but we have to look ahead now,' said Rees, Hong Kong Rugby Football Union's head of performance. 'We have made a few changes, some of which we had always planned for before.'
One change which might not have been predicted is the new-look halves combination with both scrumhalf Peter McKee and flyhalf Mike Glancy failing to retain their starting places. Tim Alexander and Cado Lee are bracketed for the scrumhalf slot, while Robertson's return has forced Glancy out.
'Keith is 70 per cent OK and we are confident that by next Saturday he will be fully fit,' Rees said. Hong Kong have a bye this weekend.
The Japan game also presents an Asian Five Nations debut for Anthony Haynes, who replaces Ally Maclay at outside centre. Haynes' presence is expected to strengthen the midfield defence which was exposed by a potent Korean backline.
It will not get easier against Japan who have registered two big wins over Kazakhstan (87-0) and the United Arab Emirates (106-3) in the past two weeks. The Asian champions take on Korea in Seoul today.
In the forwards, DeA Tigers lock forward Mike Waller gets his first opportunity this season after being called up to replace Renaud Chavanis, while flanker Mark Wright returns in place of Rory Hussey.
'Mark played in Japan last season and will know what to expect. We always intended to take him to Japan,' said Rees. Hong Kong will leave for Tokyo on Thursday.