Hong Kong and Belgium face off in Emirates Cup in Dubai
After wins against the UAE and Zimbabwe both teams have reason to be confident in decider
Hong Kong will have to overcome a stern test up front against a physical Belgium outfit today if they are to retain the Emirates Airline Cup of Nations title, said manager Dai Rees after he named the strongest starting lineup on tour, including fit-again scrumhalf Kirk Munro and winger Tom McQueen.
"They play a very French-oriented style of rugby which is physical forward play coupled with swift counter-attacks from all over the park and we will have to counter this. Defence and retaining possession will be the key to winning," Rees said.
Both teams have two wins under their belts, having seen off Zimbabwe and the United Arab Emirates, and the final clash will be mouthwatering with plenty at stake for captain Tom McColl and his men.
Hong Kong are ranked 28th, while Belgium are 23rd. A successful title defence could see Hong Kong move up two or three places and make them the second highest-placed team, a slot presently occupied by South Korea (27) in Asia next to Japan.
"Our highest ranking has been 26 which we acquired after last year's performance at this tournament. While ranking does not really matter, it will be a nice performance indicator and something which our guys, who are very proud, will be keen to have," Rees said.
"But it won't be easy. We will need to win our set pieces and then retain control of the ball as we go through the phases. We will be up against a very powerful pack and our forwards will be under a lot of pressure.
"I have been very impressed by Belgium. They will come at us hard but our guys are ready for it," he said.
Hong Kong have been able to rotate their 28-man squad and have given their top front row - Ian Ridgway, Tom Bolland and Steve Nolan - a rest before the crucial game.
Lock Terence Montgomery also comes back into the starting line-up after being on the bench against UAE and will combine with Charles French, while No 8 Pale Tauti and flanker Matt Lamming return to join Nick Hewson who has been a tower of strength on tour.
Hong Kong will field a new halves combination in Munro and Chris McAdam with the midfield comprising Stewart Megaw and Craig Wilson. The back three will be wingers Salom Yiu Kam-shing and McQueen with McColl at fullback.
Belgium's Alan Williams, has urged his team to show more discipline and to get back to basics after the team received a red card - prop Alain Miriallakis given his marching orders for a head butt - and two yellow cards in the 28-11 victory over Zimbabwe.
"Our discipline was very disappointing and we will have to work on it and improve this aspect. If we are able to do that we should be fine," said Williams, who is the top try-scorer in the tournament with five.