Hong Kong juniors vie for Asian Five Nations places
IRB tournament featuring second-tier countries will give city’s rising stars a chance to compete in A5N
Hong Kong's next generation of players will get an early chance to impress selectors at the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy (JWRT), to be staged for the first time in Asia – at the Hong Kong Football Club from Monday.
"We will be keeping an eye on them and if any of the boys catch the eye, no doubt we will be pulling them in [for the Asian Five Nations]," said Dai Rees, the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union's head of technical development and performance.
The Asian Five Nations Top Five competition gets under way at the end of the month and will double up as the Asian qualifiers for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
"The message we want to send out to the juniors is 'perform and you can play your way into the senior team' and I believe there are a number of players capable of doing that," Rees said.
Hong Kong's under-20 squad will play for the first time in the JWRT, which will feature eight of the best second-tier nations bidding for one berth at the 2015 IRB Junior World Cup.
"We finished second to Japan at last year's Asian Championship in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Only the winners of each region take part and Japan represents Asia, but as hosts we were assured of a berth," Rees said.
The eight-team competition, which starts on Monday (April 7) and ends on April 19, comprises two groups of four. Hong Kong, the eighth seeds, are drawn with top seeds United States, Tonga (4th) and Georgia (5th). The other pool comprises second seeds Canada, Japan (3rd), Uruguay (6th) and Namibia (7th). The winners of each pool will meet in the final.
Lock forward Michael Parfitt will lead the side, who include a number of players who are already part of the rugby sevens programme at the Hong Kong Sports Institute - Raef Morrison, Mike Coverdale and Chris Maize. Parfitt was also training with the senior squad prior to December's international against Belgium before illness ruled him out.
"With nearly half the squad based overseas due to university studies it has been challenging getting everyone together," said Pale Tauti, Hong Kong international who is part of the coaching team.
"But we have been preparing for this tournament for the last 18 months or so and it has all come nicely together over the last couple of weeks when we had a training camp as well as a couple of games against Bridgend College from Wales."
In addition to captain Parfitt, Maize, Morrison and Coverdale, the rest of the forwards include Zac Cinnamond, Ryan Alynsworth, Christopher Shipman, Alexander Post, John Markley, Rupert Phillips, Fin Field, Calvin Hunter, Seb Brien and Richard Lewis.
The backs comprise James Christie, Jack Coombes, Jason Jeyam, Elliot Croft, Liam Owens, Kevin Field, Joey Dignan, Theo Rolston, Flynn Kennedy, Hugo Stiles, Daniel Davidson and Jordan Cooper.
"Our goal will be to try to aim for a win. We are bottom seeds and we will be going into every game as underdogs, but we don't want to be making up numbers," Tauti said. "It will be a tough competition with teams like the United States bound to be very strong. The US has just dropped down from the top tier and will be keen to bounce back."
Hong Kong play the USA on Monday evening (19:00), followed by Tonga on Friday and Georgia next Tuesday. All matches will be played at Hong Kong Football Club.
Please click on the link to view the full match schedule and results.