Sevens players out of Hong Kong squad for Asian Five Nations UAE clash
Hong Kong will field a squad missing their Sevens players for the opening game in the Asian Five Nations against the United Arab Emirates at Hong Kong Football Club on Saturday but coach Leigh Jones was optimistic the job of staying in the Top Five could be done without the star complement.
"We haven't included the 12 players who are in the sevens squad. We have been running separate programmes as there is more prominence on sevens and they have not been training with us. But I'm confident we can do what is needed without the sevens players," Jones said.
And the task facing Jones is simple, which is to win the opening encounter against the UAE to secure a berth in next year's elite competition, which will double as Asia's qualifying tournament for the 2015 World Cup.
"The opening game in any tournament is always important but this time it is critical that we win. If we do that, relegation is out of the window and we can stop looking over our shoulders, and instead look at consolidating our position in the Top Five," Jones said.
Hong Kong will play the UAE and defending champions Japan at home over the next two Saturdays before away games to newly promoted Philippines (May 4 in Manila) and last year's runners-up South Korea (May 18 in Seoul).
With the London Sevens sandwiched between the last two games, Hong Kong have been forced to run separate squads with the central focus being on winning a berth in the IRB Sevens World Series next season. The London Sevens will also be the qualifying tournament to decide the three teams who will gain core-team status.
This has resulted in Rowan Varty and the sevens squad training separately. Their absence will rob Hong Kong virtually of a backline with Salom Yiu Kam-shing, Tom and Alex McQueen, Anthony Haynes, Cado Lee Ka-to, Ben Rimene and Jamie Hood out of the equation.