Chris McAdam ready to make Hong Kong flyhalf role his own
All eyes will be on Chris McAdam as Hong Kong begin their title defence at the Emirates Airline Cup of Nations against Zimbabwe today. Kowloon flyhalf McAdam will take over the role played by Keith Robertson last year and expectations are high he can fit in as seamlessly as Jamie Hood did in the sevens squad this season.
"His performance in Dubai will be critical for our plans to develop some added depth for the season ahead," said manager Dai Rees after naming a starting line-up with five new faces, four of them backs.
Coach Leigh Jones added: "Chris will have a large say on our destiny and on how we play. He has a large responsibility on his shoulders."
McAdam, 24, who will also take all the pressure penalty kicks, was looking forward to the challenge.
"I have played as a flyhalf all my life and I never feel the pressure," he said. "I know I have large shoes to fill with Keith being away training to become a pilot. But this is my opportunity and I hope that even when he returns, I can still push for a place."
While four of the new caps are in the backs - McAdam, centres Craig Wilson and Stewart Megaw and winger Jonny Rees - the hopes of fielding a new halves combination has been put on hold after scrumhalf Kirk Munro failed to recover from injury sustained playing for Valley.
"Kirk has a tear in his calf muscle and is out. Hopefully he will be back for the second game," said Rees. "It is important to get the partnership right at nine and 10."
While Robertson has just begun his training to become a pilot, former Hong Kong captain Tom McColl has returned after earning his stripes and has been named the captain for the day and will start at fullback.
"It is great to have Tom back but we must remember he hasn't played rugby for more than 12 months. We will have to be patient until he finds his feet," Jones warned.
The only new face in the forwards is blindside flanker Matt Lamming. The front row will see Hong Kong Football club trio Ian Ridgway, Tom Bolland and Steve Nolan start. Charles French and Terence Montgomery will be the lock forwards, while Pale Tauti and Nick Hewson - one of three members from the sevens squad in the 28-strong squad - will join Lamming in the back row.
The bench also boasts tried and tested personnel. Alex Harris, Alex Ng and Jack Bennett will provide back-up for the front-row while Alex Baddeley and Matt Stockdale, the other newcomer in the forwards, will provide cover in the second row and backrow. Kenneth Hsieh, Mike Glancy and Sebastien Alfonsi are the replacement backs.
The battle will be won up-front, however, and Jones has already called on the forwards to deliver good set-piece ball.
Little is known about African champions Zimbabwe. They are ranked 30th in the world, two places below Hong Kong.