UAE skipper concedes likely Hong Kong win in Asian Five Nations match
With four convincing wins in their last four meetings Hong Kong are odds-on favourites to crush the United Arab Emirates in the opening game of this season's Asian Five Nations Top Five competition at Hong Kong Football Club on Saturday, and opposing captain Brett Williams has candidly admitted that already.
Williams was quoted in a UAE newspaper as saying his team have targeted two wins - against South Korea and the Philippines - as they fight to stay in the Top Five and thus ensure their place in the Asian qualifiers for the 2015 World Cup next year.
"We definitely want to stay up in the top division and the goal is the same as it was last year - ideally, to have two wins," flanker Williams said.
"Obviously, we don't know what is going to happen in any match, but the two matches we are aiming to do that are South Korea and Philippines."
Recent history is against the visitors as they take on a Hong Kong outfit missing its Sevens stars who are preparing for the London Sevens next month with the aim of becoming a core team in the IRB World Series.
The most recent meeting, at December's Cup of Nations, ended in a 51-6 victory. Hong Kong had previously beaten UAE 85-10 (in the Asian Five Nations last year), 72-14 (in Cup of Nations in 2011) and 62-3 (in A5N in 2011). The magnitude of these wins would suggest that Tom McColl and his men face another easy victory.
But UAE coach Duncan Hall believes his team have improved significantly since the last meeting and is upbeat after a short build-up tour to Cyprus, the first time the UAE had done such extensive preparation in the lead-up to the A5N.
Hall says the brief stint has been worth "a month's training" and is confident his team have bonded sufficiently to provide a credible challenge. Yet, Hong Kong should hold no fears and will go out determined to post another half-century score on their opponents. And head coach Leigh Jones has promised an open game.
"We want to throw the ball around and play entertaining rugby. We have a good base of players who understand each other well," Jones said. "Both the forwards and the backline is showing new depth and talent so it would be a mistake to not let them show what they can do."
In the other game on Saturday, Japan take on the Philippines in Fukuoka.