Uruguay await if Hong Kong can achieve second in Asian qualifying for RWC
Repechage clash in Montevideo on cards for runners-up
Hong Kong face a daunting long-haul trip to Montevideo to take on Uruguay if they finish second in the Asian qualifiers for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Uruguay lost 32-13 to the United States in the return leg in Atlanta over the weekend - the first leg was drawn 27-27 - to be relegated to the first round of the repechage, where they will come up against the second-placed team from Asia.
The South Americans will be a handful, but Hong Kong are not looking that far ahead just yet.
"Yes our goal is to finish second and win that repechage slot and we know Uruguay will be a tough proposition. But right now all our attention is on the Asian Five Nations and to get past sides like South Korea and Sri Lanka," said Dai Rees, Hong Kong Rugby Football Union's head of technical development and performance.
The winner of the HSBC Asian Five Nations Top Five competition, which commences at the end of this month, will decide Asia's direct entry to the World Cup and perennial winners Japan are fancied to book that spot. The runners-up will meet Uruguay in a one-off repechage match, with the winner then progressing through to a world repechage.
"Our goal is to make it through to the repechage. Four years ago we lost out to Kazakhstan and we are determined to put the record right. But before we can look ahead to Uruguay, we have to make sure we don't stumble again. It is not going to be easy, especially against Korea," said Rees.
Hong Kong will begin their campaign by hosting the Philippines on April 26. The following week they travel to Colombo for a tricky encounter against Sri Lanka before returning to host Korea in mid-May. Hong Kong's final game will be against Japan in Tokyo at the end of May. The hope will be to enter this game unbeaten and with the chance - albeit slim - of winning direct entry to the World Cup.
"We have been looking at Uruguay for a long time. They are a good side, having held the US to a draw in the first leg. It will be good to make that long journey with the hope of qualifying for the World Cup. But we are a long way from that stage now," Rees said.
The 15s squad have been training quietly in the shadow of the Hong Kong Sevens. The sevens players will rejoin the rest of the squad at the end of the week and some of them could be in the fray during the traditional Taipan's match on Saturday at Hong Kong Football Club, where the Chairman's 15 will comprise of players from the national squad.