Kowloon centre Tom McColl has been handed the captaincy for the HSBC Asian Five Nations campaign after last year's skipper, Simon Leung Ho-yam, was ruled out for the rest of the season with a broken hand.
Outside centre McColl (pictured) will lead Hong Kong for the first time tomorrow in a fully sanctioned IRB test against the Philippines in Manila. Hong Kong are on a four-day training camp, despite a black travel alert still in force after the hostage crisis. 'Tom was the right choice after he showed strong leadership qualities on the tour of Europe in December,' head coach Dai Rees said.
Number eight Leung broke a bone in his hand during the domestic season but still played in the Hong Kong Sevens last month. However, he needs an operation and has been ruled out of the Asian Five Nations.
Sevens captain Ant Haynes and elder sibling Ed Haynes are also out. Ant has a knee injury while Ed has had shoulder surgery. The loss of this trio, along with Mark Wright and Jeff Wong Chun-kiu, will rob the squad of much-needed experience.
Only 27 out of 35 players have gone to the Philippines as the others have been unable to take time off.
'[The match] against the Volcanoes [Philippines] will be an important step before naming the squad for the first game in the Asian Five Nations against Kazakhstan,' Rees said.
Hong Kong will travel to Almaty for the opening game against last year's runners-up next Saturday, and the majority of the 22-man squad is expected to come from the players who are in the Philippines.
'The format for 2011, with Hong Kong opening in Almaty and returning for a game against Japan the following weekend will be the biggest challenge for us since the competition began in 2008,' Rees said.
HKRFU coaching development manager Leigh Jones comes in as a coach to replace Brian Higgins, who is returning home to New Zealand. Coaching development officer Joe Shaw has come in as backs coach.