Fijian trio poses new threat for Hong Kong
Sri Lanka add foreign firepower for the first time as passports fast-tracked for Asian Five Nations clash
Sri Lanka will break new ground when they field foreign-born players for the first time in the national rugby team with passports fast-tracked for three Fijians to test Hong Kong in the Asian Five Nations on Saturday.
"It has been confirmed. Three Fijians, two centres and a fullback, will start against Hong Kong," said a source close to the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union.
Hong Kong arrived on Friday with team manager Dai Rees saying one of his first tasks would be to check if the trio meet the International Rugby Board's eligibility rules.
"We have no issues with Sri Lanka fielding them. This is the first time they are doing so and it is understandable in these modern times," Rees said. "However, I hope they have followed all procedures. Just having a passport doesn't make you eligible."
SLRFU officials have been cagey and unavailable for comment, although it is believed the players all qualify under the IRB's three-year eligibility rule.
"They have played for the last few seasons for leading clubs in Colombo and they conform to the required eligibility requirements," said the source.
Hong Kong coach Leigh Jones had expected to face a few problems from the Sri Lankan forwards, but now his attention will also turn to the backs and the Fijian threat. Hong Kong Football Club midfield duo Jake Phelps and Lloyd Jones will face this new challenge.
"They are a big physical team. We need to deny them quality possession because if we allow them to win some good ball at the set piece they will ask some searching questions," Jones said.
"This is Sri Lanka's first game at home in the A5N in front of what is expected to be a big crowd. First of all, we need to cope with the conditions. Then the crowd is going to be pretty hot down here, so we need to talk to the guys to prepare them."
While Hong Kong are upbeat after a resounding 108-0 thrashing of the Philippines in their opener last week, Sri Lanka are still reeling from the 59-3 loss to South Korea in Incheon.
"They were humbled a little last week so there is going to be a reaction there. We need to make sure we are bringing some fresh energy to combat what they are going to bring to the table," Jones said.