Hong Kong's attraction as a place of opportunity to play top international rugby will take a beating with the decision to pull out of next year's expanded Pacific Rim tournament. Hong Kong assistant coach Gary Cross said: 'I'm gutted that we are out. It is the end of rugby in Hong Kong as we know it.' This was the consensus of several top players, who were universal in the view that players would no longer come to Hong Kong simply to play rugby. 'A lot of players will lose interest in Hong Kong. The standard of club rugby at the highest level will also fall,' said Paul Dingley, captain of this year's Hong Kong Pacific Rim team. 'I'm very disappointed that we will not be part of the tournament next year. But I guess we would have struggled to put a team together.' The despondency among the players was partly due to the disappearance of an opportunity to play in a top-quality tournament - albeit still second class by international standards. It was also thought that local rugby standards would now fall. 'Hong Kong will hold no attraction for new players coming in. The chance of playing in the Pac Rim was always a big drawcard,' said scrumhalf Stephen Kidd. 'After two runners-up slots in the last couple of years, it is pretty disappointing that Hong Kong will not be around next year. The standards at the top will drop locally. It is sad and unfortunate,' added prop Leighton Duley. Dingley said it was urgent for the Union to spell out what international programme they had lined up for the Leading players. He added: 'There will be a huge player drain. Hong Kong is a very expensive place to live and unless you have a job, there is no incentive to stay now.' On Monday, the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union (HKRFU) announced that it would be pulling out of the new Pac Rim competition, which will now include newcomers Fiji, Samoa and Tonga and the old guard of Japan, Canada and the US. The reason was the International Rugby Board's (IRB) three-year residency rules. The IRB, which will back the tournament for the next three years to the tune of GBP400,000 per year, did give Hong Kong a dispensation of sorts, with only half the team having to fall under the three-year ruling in 1999, 70 per cent in 2000, and 100 per cent in 2001. But this was still not enough for the HKRFU. Its commercial manager David Roberts went cap in hand to a high-powered meeting of the IRB and the rest of the participating unions in Hawaii last weekend, hoping to get the parties to stick to the former one-year ruling, but he was rebuffed. 'We might have been able to pull it off and field a team for the home games next year. But a lot of players would have been unavailable for the away games,' said Dingley. 'It is disappointing that Hong Kong are not in next year. But personally I would not have been available for the away games next year,' said winger Chris Gordon.