Hong Kong prepare for Belgium with attacking show against UAE
Coach warns against complacency as UAE may be smarting from Belgium's thrashing
Defending champions Hong Kong take on hosts United Arab Emirates today with an eye on getting their attacking game in order before the big match against Belgium in the Emirates Airline Cup of Nations XV Rugby tournament.
The Belgium encounter has turned into a winners-take-all clash after both teams emerged victorious on the first day of action, Hong Kong defeating Zimbabwe 22-7 and Belgium thrashing the hapless hosts 94-3.
With that as an indicator, and the fact Hong Kong have beaten the UAE by 50-point margins on the past three occasions they met, Tom McColl and his men will be looking at sharpening their attacking skills, which hardly surfaced against Zimbabwe where the focus was more on defence.
"We didn't string more than four phases together against Zimbabwe and while we will give UAE the respect they deserve, this will be an opportunity to get our attacking structure into order," said Hong Kong senior coach Leigh Jones.
"Our defence was magnificent against Zimbabwe. In my three years in Hong Kong, I thought this was the best result we have ever achieved, but now we must try and get our continuity together and hone our attacking skills."
After conceding an early try against Zimbabwe, in the first five minutes, Hong Kong settled down to suffocate their bigger and more physical opponents with an iron defence. Tackles were like dancing the tango - two players doing it in tandem - nipping the onslaught in the bud.
Hong Kong's back row of Pale Tauti, Matt Lamming and Nick Hewson were a great wall and with centres Stewart Megaw and Craig Wilson putting in some big hits, the midfield was solid against Zimbabwe.
But now Jones has asked his players to show the other dimension to their game. It will be easy against a team who leaked 14 tries to Belgium. However, Jones warned his players not to take anything for granted.
"They will be a different team to that which played against Belgium. They will be smarting and will be out to redeem themselves. We will have to give them respect," said Jones.
"We knew before coming here that playing teams like Belgium and Zimbabwe would be a step up for us and it would be more about defence than attack. But this is an opportunity to show our attacking game too."