It was not quite 'Remember the Alamo' stuff but assistant Hong Kong coach Rick Shuttleworth made it almost sound like that as he constantly reminded the SAR senior rugby squad that ball retention would defeat the enemy at next month's Asian Championships in Japan. A 19-strong Hong Kong squad were put through their paces in a day-long training run at the Sports Institute in Sha Tin yesterday. And the entire morning session was devoted to retaining and controlling the ball at the breakdown situation. 'Remember the recoil' was the catchphrase of the morning as the players went through their drills with Shuttleworth's words ringing in their ears. 'The biggest problem facing the Hong Kong team at the moment is ball retention,' Shuttleworth told the players before giving his solution to the problem which has plagued the team this past month, first against Western Australia and then in the Triangular Series against Taiwan and Singapore. And the answer to their worries was the 'recoil'. Players tackled were urged to hold on to the ball until the support arrived in numbers before laying it back, if possible with two hands, for a teammate to keep the move alive. Hong Kong coach Phil Campbell, who in his heyday was an outstanding back, took a back seat allowing his assistant to carry the flag in the morning. Campbell knew how important it was for the players to get fully versed in this area. 'Ball retention is the most crucial aspect of the modern game. If we have the ball we can build multiple phases. If we don't have it, we don't have anything,' Campbell said. Hong Kong come up against defending champions Japan, South Korea and Taiwan respectively in Group One of the Asian Championships from June 24-July 2 in Aomori, northern Japan. With more than a month to go, the biggest worry facing Campbell is to try and keep training sessions lively and interesting. Hence the visit to the Sports Institute yesterday. According to Hong Kong Rugby Football Union executive director Allan Payne, the entire visit to the venue of sporting excellence at Sha Tin is estimated to cost the governing body 'around $10,000'. Money well spent listening to manager John Barrett, who expounded on the virtue of bringing change into a rugby player's life. 'We have to keep the interest up and build a team spirit. There would be no point if we just asked the players to routinely turn up at training,' said Barrett. The early morning bus ride to Sha Tin from the Hong Kong Football Club yesterday must have been a change indeed. By 10 am, the players were limbering up on one of the grass pitches before getting down to the nuts and bolts of the training session. 'This whole exercise is to establish a platform for the future and get the players to understand various game scenarios,' said Campbell. 'This is the blueprint on which we will keep working. We will also test their fitness regularly in the next month.' His plan is for the players to peak for the Japan game, the very first outing for Hong Kong at the Asian Championships. Campbell has acquired the services of a professional trainer, Azza Keith, who will assist the management on keeping tabs on the fitness of the players. Fitness is proving to be a bugbear for Campbell. At the moment he is without five key players - Rodney McIntosh, Hamish Bowden, Matt Reede, Chris Gordon and Mark Solomon - all of whom are recovering from injury. While McIntosh and Bowden played in the Triangular Series, the other three have been out of action since the Hong Kong Sevens and this could prove to be a huge problem. With doubts hanging over the back trio - fullback Reede and wingers Solomon and Gordon - Campbell has opted to delay naming his squad for the Asian Championships which was due to be announced today. 'There are a few areas of concern mainly due to injury. I'll wait another week before naming the squad,' said Campbell. Half the squad who turned up yesterday were local Chinese. Most of them could be sidelined when Campbell names his 23-strong squad for Japan. But there was no holding the players back yesterday as they put into practice Shuttleworth's dictum. 'It doesn't matter if you gain five or six metres as long as you retain the ball . . . and remember the recoil,' reminded Shuttleworth once again. They must be saying the same thing in Japan and Korea, too.