NATIONAL coach George Simpkin believes Hong Kong are ready to enter a new era of expansive, open rugby which could take them to the top of the Asian ladder.
Simpkin said his 26-man squad for next month's two internationals against Taiwan contains the quality of backs who can add a new dimension to the territory's game.
The presence of newcomers Vaughan Going and Isi Tu'ivai, plus the improving form of well-established players has given Simpkin hope for the matches against Taiwan on December 7 and 11.
He added that the forwards who took part in Monday night's national trials also showed the ability to use plenty of ruck ball which helps them move up-field rather than resorting to mauls.
''We have enough new players in Hong Kong who can totally reshape the direction of rugby here.'' ''We can now play a far more expansive game because of the quality of our backs,'' said Simpkin. ''And the withdrawal through injury of a number of players brought to light a number of exciting prospects.
''It now gives us options for back line positions that we never had before.'' Simpkin said he was particularly pleased with Hong Kong Football Club scrum-half Adam Adair's performance in his unfamiliar position of fly-half and Valley's new winger Jeremy Smith.
Fly-half Going and Tu'ivai, centre or full-back, were unable to play on Monday because of injuries.
The squad have their first training session tonight at Boundary Street with Simpkin's prime concern being the players' poor standard of fitness.
Seven players, who Simpkin said would have been selected, were unavailable for the internationals.
''I'm concerned about fitness,'' he said. ''With many players unavailable and who were without doubt definites for the team, some of the forwards in key positions who will now have extra responsibilities are not fit enough to be playing at any level of rugby let alone an international.
''However, having said that, we've found some new loose forwards who I am happy with.'' Simpkin's ultimate goal is to help Hong Kong win next October's Asian Championships in Kuala Lumpur, which will earn them a place in the 1995 World Cup in South Africa.