Injury woes pose headache for Hong Kong
Despite setbacks, coach Andy Hall is confident of a strong showing in World Cup repêchage
Hong Kong rugby head coach Andy Hall will face an anxious few days as he waits for fitness reports on several key players before naming a 23-strong squad for the 2015 World Cup repêchage game against Uruguay in Montevideo on August 2.
Among the injured are scrum-half Peter McKee, centre Lee Jones and flanker Alex Baddeley. Adding to the challenge for the biggest game in Hong Kong's history is that front-rowers Steve Nolan and Alex Ng Wai-shing are unavailable.
To compound issues, training has been disrupted as the Hong Kong sevens squad, including 15-a-side skipper Nick Hewson, were away on a 10-day training trip in Canada as preparation for the Asian Games in Incheon.
Despite these setbacks, Hall is confident his side - who face a two-day, 40-hour trip just to reach the Uruguayan capital - will be competitive against a team ranked four places (19th) above Hong Kong.
"It is the biggest game in our short history and one that the players, coaches and management are relishing," said Hall. "We cannot do anything about the journey time, or the fact that the Sevens players are also preparing for key competitions in the months ahead.
"We will simply focus on the job at hand and get on with it. It won't be the first time we have been underdogs, so there will be a massive focus on what we will bring to the table and the threats we will pose rather than sleepless nights worrying about the opposition," Hall said.
While he has enough cover in some positions, Hall's biggest worry will be up front with Nolan and Ng ruling themselves out.
DeA's Phil Leung and Valley's Jack Bennett have been called in to add strength to the front row. Hong Kong Cricket Club scrum-half Kenneth Hsieh is also unavailable, opening the door for Hong Kong Scottish number nine Charles Cheung.
If Hong Kong defeat Uruguay in the one-off match, they will then meet either Russia or Zimbabwe in a home-and-away play-off for the final berth at the World Cup in England next year.