New-look Hong Kong face the future with optimism
Hong Kong used yesterday's rugby international against the Arabian Gulf to give young players a chance to impress ahead of the 2007 World Cup qualifiers.
Six newcomers took the field at King's Park, including Mark Wright, 19, labelled as a 'top prospect' by Hong Kong Rugby Football Union's (HKRFU) community rugby manager Robbie McRobbie.
'He's a good, all-round prospect,' McRobbie said. 'He can play at flanker or on the wing. He's got speed, vision and he's a strong lad. For such a young age, he has shown good maturity.'
Captain Tom Cameron and Lee Cheuk-yin are two other players to watch out for in the team's remaining three matches scheduled for this month and next month.
'[Cheuk-yin] is at the peak of his form,' McRobbie said.
Hong Kong will next play two crucial World Cup qualifiers, travelling to Singapore on May 22 and then hosting China on June 5.
The international season will end with a visit by the invitational side Penguins Rugby Football Club, who will play Hong Kong on June 10. 'It's a good test to see where we are,' said HKRFU spokesman Gary Ku.
Missing from the action will be former skipper Paul Dingley, Carl Murray, Chris Gordon, Andrew Wong Kee, Alex Gibbs and Kris Marin. Hong Kong will also be without star hooker Stu Denton, who has retired.
Still, there is optimism with newly-appointed Ivan Torpey - a former English rugby union player - at the helm.
'He's upped the level of professionalism in terms of training and organisation and the way we go about things,' McRobbie said. 'He's starting to impose some good ideas and raise the level of the game. There's a good mood in the squad. But with a number of changes and a new coach, it's not going to be easy.'
See the sports section in today's South China Morning Post for results of yesterday's game.