Kowloon loosehead prop Leon Wei will make his debut in the starting line-up for Hong Kong's opening encounter in the Asian Five Nations Top Five competition against the United Arab Emirates on Saturday.
Wei is one of four new faces in the 22-strong squad named yesterday by head coach Leigh Jones, but is the only one who will start. The other debutants are DeA front-rower James Cooper, Hong Kong Football Club flanker Will Hunt and Hong Kong Scottish back Dave Whiteford.
Wei has risen through the age groups and there is an air of expectation surrounding him as Hong Kong seek to get their 2013 campaign off to a flying start at Hong kong Football Club.
"Leon is very powerful for a young lad and has some real potential," said Jones. "Choosing him to earn his first cap against the UAE at home is a reflection and reward of the positive work he has done to date. He now has the opportunity to cement himself in the team but he will have to step up and grasp it with both hands."
Dai Rees, the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union's head of performance, described Wei's rise to prominence as a "great story". Rees said: "He is a local boy who came through the age-grade system in Hong Kong, starting as a centre at U14s level, then No 8 at U18s and finally a prop at U20s. He obviously has good hand skills and mobility from his experience in the backs and back-row and will be an important player for us this season."
The squad largely features players who represented Hong Kong at the Emirates Airlines Cup of Nations last December in Dubai, where Hong Kong finished runners-up to Belgium.
In that tournament, Hong Kong crushed UAE 51-6, but Jones warned that there was no room for complacency.
"That win could be a double-edged sword for us," said Jones. "I fully expect it to be a very different and a very improved team from the one we faced in Dubai at the end of the year."
Hong Kong Squad
1-Leon Wei, 2-Alex Harris, 3-Steve Nolan, 4-Dan Watson, 5-Charles French, 6-Matt Stockdale, 7-Matt Lamming, 8-Pale Tauti, 9-Kirk Munro, 10-Chris McAdam, 11-Sebastian Alfonsi, 12-Stuart Megaw, 13-Ally Maclay, 14-Jonny Rees,15-Tom McColl (Captain). Reserves: 16-Tom Bolland, 17-Alex Baddeley, 18-James Cooper, 19-Bill Brant, 20-Will Hunt, 21-Peter McKee, 22-Niall Rowark, 23-David Whiteford.