US keen to make their mark in IRB U20s tournament
Top-seeded Americans aim to open strongly against hosts Hong Kong
With their hearts set on returning to the top-tier competition, the United States will be going all out to make a statement in their opening game of the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy (JWRT) against hosts Hong Kong on Monday.
The US crashed out of the last IRB Junior World Championship - the tournament for the world's elite juniors - in France and are keen to regain their spot among the big boys next year when the under-20 age-group competition is held in Italy.
US skipper Ollie Drew stressed the squad aimed to win the eight-team tournament at Hong Kong Football Club.
"It was a great experience for the USA to be in the Junior World Championship last year and we are definitely targeting a return next season," said Drew, a second-row forward.
"We know we will have to work hard to get through before we can think about that. But I'm happy with our build-up, having had three training camps back home since December."
The United States are top seeds in the tournament and will take on bottom seeds Hong Kong in the last of four games on Monday evening (7pm kick-off).
Drew, 18, plays his club rugby for Bournemouth in England. This is his first JWRT and although it is his first time in Hong Kong, he has not been dazzled by the sights of the city, rather focusing on the task at hand.
"We will be hoping to use our speed to full advantage, while still playing a very structured game that uses our size to our benefit," Drew said.
"This is my first Junior World Rugby Trophy and the first time I have been to Hong Kong. I'm looking forward to getting a chance to see some of the sights and explore the city, but first is to get off to a good start against the home team."
Drew will come up against Hong Kong captain Mike Parfitt in the second row. Unlike the other seven teams, Hong Kong did not qualify for this tournament but are in it as hosts and will want to remind the opposition they deserve to be in the mix too.
Japan qualified as Asia's top team by winning the ARFU Under-19 Championship in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, last year. Hong Kong finished second beating Taiwan 34-31 to finish ahead of South Korea in that event
"We are very excited as it is a huge opportunity for Hong Kong to show our rugby to the world and for us to see where we stand on the world stage," Parfitt said. "It's the first time we have really been in this competition and we are quite keen to make our mark.
"We enter this tournament as hosts with nothing to lose really, but everything to gain. We know we don't have the same pressure as other teams and one of our big advantages is being familiar with the local conditions."
In the other pool A game, Tonga face Georgia (5pm). In pool B, Japan meet Uruguay (1pm) and second seeds Canada clash with Namibia (3pm).
Please click on the link to view the full match schedule and results.