Hong Kong will field a new front row for the inaugural Emirates Airlines Cup of Nations tournament in Dubai next month, as seven players become eligible under the IRB's three-year residency qualification.
Newedge Club forwards Steve Nolan, Ian Ridgway and Tom Bolland have been included in the 28-man squad for the four-nation tournament, along with second-row Dan Watson, of Hong Kong Football Club.
'It is very timely that we have got four new players in the tight five,' said Dai Rees, Rugby Football Union head of performance and Hong Kong coach. 'Hong Kong has always struggled for strength and depth in this area and we are fortunate to have all these club players become eligible.'
Hong Kong face hosts the United Arab Emirates on December 10, Kenya three days later and Brazil on December 16. In the past two years, Hong Kong have gone to Europe in December, but games have been lost to poor weather. The new tournament, a joint initiative of the HKRFU and the UAE Rugby Association, will now become an annual fixture.
'It is an exciting prospect playing two new international teams in Brazil and Kenya,' Rees said. 'It will be a great opportunity for the players to get exposure to good test rugby. And it will help us gauge where we are as we look ahead and prepare for the HSBC Asian Five Nations next year.'
Hong Kong are ranked second, behind Japan.
The tournament is also supported by the International Rugby Board, and head of development and performance Mark Egan said: 'We are happy to support this excellent initiative. Cross regional competition between nations of a similar IRB ranking will allow us to benchmark these unions against each other and see how they are progressing.'
Tighthead prop Nolan, loose head Ridgway and hooker Bolland have come along when the senior squad have lost Nigel Hobler and Pete Spizzirri, with both front rows retiring last season. Hooker Brent Taylor is out with a dislocated shoulder. Lock forward Watson's arrival is also timely with club teammate Ollie Jones having returned to Britain due to work.
The other three new faces are: Ally Maclay, Valley centre; Bill Brant, Hong Kong Cricket Club back row; and Cado Lee, Kowloon scrum half. The tour will also give backs Mike McKee, Tom McQueen and Ed Haynes a chance to re-establish themselves after a long absence.
Mike Mckee, Alex McQueen, Rowan Varty, Adam Raby, Salom Yiu Kam-shing, Tom McQueen, Ally Maclay, Lee Jones, Keith Robertson, Ed Haynes, Tim Alexander, Peter McKee, Cado Lee, Steve Nolan, Andrew Li, Ian Ridgway, Alex Ng, Alex Harris, Tom Bolland, Charles French, Dan Watson, Mike Waller, Nick Hewson, Pale Tauti, Mark Goosen, Bill Brant, Terence Montgomery and Guy Payn.