Rugby World Cup 2015
The 2015 Rugby World Cup will be the eighth World Cup, hosted by England from 18 September to 31 October 2015. Some games will be played in Wales. The final will be held at Twickenham in London. New Zealand are the defending champions, having won the tournament on home soil in 2011.
Hong Kong aim to spring surprise against tough Uruguay
Captain Nick Hewson and his forwards hold the key in World Cup repêchage in Montevideo
Captain Nick Hewson and his forwards will hold the key to Hong Kong's fate in the biggest game in their history against Uruguay in the first qualifying round of the World Cup repêchage in Montevideo on Saturday (02:45 on Sunday Hong Kong time).
Stand-in head coach Andy Hall said the key to taking the next giant step to the World Cup in England next year would rest with the pack, which is bound to come under huge pressure.
"Set-piece parity will be the key," said Hall. "They have a powerful scrum and driving game and we need to try to neutralise that where possible to provide us with a platform.
"Scrum time will be a huge challenge and is a massive weapon for them. A quick hook and getting the ball as swiftly as possible to our number eight will be crucial," said Hall.
Hall will also come under scrutiny after replacing Leigh Jones, who spearheaded Hong Kong's campaign to second place in the Asian Five Nations which earned them the ticket to Uruguay.
Hong Kong arrived in Montevideo on Wednesday after a gruelling 37-hour journey and the players have spent the past few days trying to get their body clocks back and ticking.
"The travel wasn't so bad. The stopover in Paris was really helpful. We had a chance to get out of the airport and walk around Paris a bit and some of the lads even rented bikes to get around the city. So while it was a long trip, having a chance to deplane and get out into the city was a useful break.
"It would have been great to have spent a few extra days in Uruguay to get over the flight but the majority of the squad are amateur and taking a few days out of their annual leave to go on this trip. Bearing that in mind, I am more than happy with our travel plans," Hall said.
The winner of this match will play either Russia or Zimbabwe (also today in Siberia) in a home-and-away play-off for the 20th and last place at the World Cup.
Hong Kong have been working on their scrum and Hall is confident flanker Hewson and his pack can provide a platform from which to spring a surprise on Uruguay, who at 19 are ranked three places above Hong Kong.
"We have been working hard tweaking our scrum and we have made some significant steps forward technically over the last few sessions," Hall said.
"While they are a big pack, I'd like to think our speed across the ground may give us the edge at line-out time.
"We need to get our processes spot on and I hope we can provide a platform from the air for our exciting backs."
While the performance of the forwards will be a focus, Hall was also concerned about his defence with Uruguay possessing flashy backs.
"Control of territory will be massive. While I don't expect them to threaten our line from far out, as soon as they get within 20 to 30 metres they will turn the screw," Hall said.
"Our ability to protect our 22 with a good kicking game and disciplined defence will be key. I am confident we will create one or two opportunities ourselves and as in any big game we need to convert them.
"Weathering the storm in the early exchanges is going to be huge. They will naturally come out guns blazing in front of their home support and we need to cope with that and ensure they don't get quick soft points.
"If we are in the game at half-time we will give ourselves a chance," Hall added.
Hong Kong’s starting line-up
1. Leon Wei Hon-sum; 2. Alex Harris; 3. James Cooper; 4. Paul Dwyer; 5. Jack Delaforce; 6. Nick Hewson (captain); 7. Matt Lamming; 8. Pale Tauti; 9. Jamie Hood; 10. Chris McAdam; 11. Salom Yiu Kam-shing; 12. Jake Phelps; 13. Lloyd Jones; 14. Rowan Varty; 15. Alex McQueen.
Replacements: 16. Tom Bolland; 17. Jack Bennett; 18. Phil Leung; 19. Bill Brant; 20. Alex Baddeley; 21. Charles Cheng; 22. Niall Rowark; 23. Tom McQueen.