Hong Kong to blood two more new caps in Cup of Nations clash against Portugal
Adam Fulgrabe and Dan Falvey win places in coach Andy Hall’s starting line-up
Hong Kong coach Andrew Hall will throw two more new caps in the deep end for Tuesday’s Cup of Nations showdown against Portugal at HKFC.
Portugal’s forwards impressed in their 23-12 loss to favourites Russia last Friday night and Hall will again test the depth he is building in the squad, with prop Adam Fullgrabe and number eight Dan Falvey in the starting 15. The Russians take on Zimbabwe in the opening test.
Hall has also included two sevens players – scrum-half Cado Lee Ka-to and winger Tom McQueen – for Hong Kong’s first-ever 15s test against the European side.
“Portugal look to have the toughest pack in the competition. For the first hour of their game they dominated what is a very large and skilful Russian eight, so negating that advantage is going to be a big focus for us,” Hall said.
“We know our backs can do their thing but we need to get them the ball in good positions and going forward. Winning the ball against Portugal is going to be a significant step up for us from the opening match with Zimbabwe.”
Fullgrabe and Falvey will bring to 10 the number of new players capped over the opening two rounds of the three-round tournament.
They replace Rohan Cook and flanker Matt Lamming, who both suffered slight knocks in the opening 30-11 win over Zimbabwe last Friday.
“It’s a special day for those two and I am excited that we have now been able to expose 10 new players to international rugby across two matches,” said Hall.
Fullgrabe and Jack Parfitt will anchor Alex Harris in the front row while Adam Butterfield comes in at lock, in partnership with Adrian Griffiths. Captain Nick Hewson moves to six to make room for Falvey number eight, while flanker Toby Fenn gets his first start of the series.
Scrum-half Lee replaces Tom Marshall who had a solid debut against Zimbabwe, while Ben Rimene earns his second straight start at fly-half.
Hall has also kept faith in his centres combination of Lex Kaleca and Tyler Spitz.McQueen comes in on the right side with Charles Higson-Smith shifting to the left, filling Brad Raper’s spot from the opening match. Ed Rolston retains his place at fullback.“It is great to have introduced so many new players to the squad in this competition. I think it shows some of the depth we are building in key positions like the front row, but it also enhances the competition for places within the squad as a whole,” Hall said.
“It’s also nice to have a couple of the sevens players joining us. They help lift the energy in the squad and will strengthen our options heading into the final two games.
“We know that Portugal are going to pose some tough questions and we are preparing for that, but we are keen to back up Friday’s result with not only a win but also a more complete performance,” Hall added.