Hong Kong steel themselves for tough A5N campaign
Three games stand in the way of ambitious goal to go unbeaten into crucial Japan match
The target is to remain unbeaten going into the match against Japan at the old National Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on May 25.
To achieve that Hong Kong first need to defeat the Philippines, Sri Lanka and South Korea on three successive weekends – starting on Saturday at the Hong Kong Football Club when they meet the Volcanoes.
This year's Asian Five Nations has an added gloss with it being the regional qualifiers for the 2015 World Cup.
The winners are expected to be Japan who have represented Asia in all seven previous World Cups – and the Japanese have never lost a match since the A5N was created six years ago.
Yet, stranger things have happened in sport where hope springs eternal. And Hong Kong will want to harbour that hope when they go to Tokyo; even if they lose, another target would have been achieved – finishing second and claiming the berth in the repêchage against Uruguay.
But top official Dai Rees has warned Hong Kong, who will start with skipper Nick Hewson on the bench, not to ignore the challenges the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Korea will bring.
"Our goal is to go to Japan undefeated, but to achieve that we will need a highly focused approach," said Rees, the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union's head of technical development and performance.
Rees can point to the past to buttress his argument for Saturday's encounter – last year the Philippines pushed Hong Kong who only took control late in the game. He has cited newcomers to the Top Five – Sri Lanka – as a potential "banana skin", while Korea have got the better of Hong Kong in the past couple of years.
"Our hopes at a championship and reaching the Rugby World Cup repêchage rely on the coming few days and it will be a tough ask," Rees said.
"But I have no complaints about the schedule. It's nice to open any championship at home and then later to have a chance to play probably our closest rivals, South Korea, at home is a great opportunity.
"But we have warned the squad to not just focus on South Korea. It is arrogant for us to even think about the Korean game.
"If we want to qualify for the Rugby World Cup, or even the repêchage, we are going to have to take it a game at a time. Anything less opens us up to the opportunity to make mistakes like we did four years ago when we lost to the Arabian Gulf in Bahrain.
"We must maintain a ruthless mental discipline," Rees said.