Young Varty gets first HK call-up

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 May, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 May, 2004, 12:00am

KGV schoolboy Rowan Varty is set to make his senior international debut for Hong Kong on the wing after being drafted into a 22-strong squad for the 2007 Rugby World Cup first-round Asian zone qualifying match away to Singapore on Saturday.

Varty, 17, was called up as a replacement for the injured wing Alex Zenovic and is one of two changes to the squad who played against the Arabian Gulf on May 9. The other change is the return of the experienced Andrew Wong Kee.

'If Rowan plays against Singapore, it will be his first cap. He is a talented player,' said head coach Ivan Torpey. Varty was a member of the preliminary squad picked for this year's Hong Kong Sevens, but failed to make the final 12.

He comes in to replace Zenovic who was badly injured in the warm-up match against the Arabian Gulf. Zenovic fractured his ankle in three places while trying to cover tackle an opponent in Hong Kong's 12-5 victory. 'It is a bad injury. Alex has a triple fracture on his ankle and he will be out for at least three months. It is too early to say if he will be available for the Asian Championship which Hong Kong hosts in October,' said Torpey.

Former Valley captain and dynamic back Wong Kee will meanwhile replace Football Club's Mark Wright in the only other change in the squad. Wong Kee was unavailable for the Arabian Gulf game.

Wong Kee's return should add more vigour to the Hong Kong attack which looked a bit toothless in the warm-up match where all the points came off the boot of scrumhalf Rob Naylor. 'He has the experience and Hong Kong will benefit from his presence,' said Torpey who will be in charge of his first international with Hong Kong rugby. Torpey won't be thrown into the deep end as Singapore are not expected to offer much resistance, even though they have home ground advantage.

Singapore and China are Hong Kong's preliminary round opponents. Hong Kong will host China on June 5. Only one team from Asia will get a direct entry into the 20-team 2007 World Cup in France. The second-placed Asian team will enter a repechage.

Meanwhile, Ireland began their campaign to qualify for next year's RWC Sevens in Hong Kong by winning the first European qualifying event in Poland last weekend. Ireland beat Russia 26-17 in the Cup final in the first of six preliminary competitions in Europe.