Rugby World Cup 2019 repechage: scouting report on Hong Kong’s opponents Kenya, Canada and Germany
- Three tough teams stand in the way of Hong Kong making history
- Leigh Jones’ men look to qualify for Japan 2019 via repechage starting on Sunday
Hong Kong find themselves three wins away from an historic place at next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan, as they get set to start the repechage qualification tournament on Sunday.
But Leigh Jones’ men will have to go through three teams who are all bringing something different to the Stade Delort in Marseille, France over the next two weeks.
Here’s the low down before Hong Kong clash with Germany (November 11), Kenya (November 17) and Canada (November 23) as they look to qualify for their first World Cup.
New Germany boss Mike Ford, a former British and Irish Lions defence coach, will lead a group of part-time players into the country’s biggest ever challenge.
Ford brings an impressive resume, having also worked with England and Ireland’s national teamsbefore spells as head coach of Bath and Toulon.
The team is also backed by Hans-Peter Wild, but the Stade Francais owner has said his chequebook will only be open for the national 15s team until the tournament is over.
After that it’s anyone’s guess where this youthful programme heads, but if Germany’s history when it comes to sports speaks to anything, they won’t be giving up.
As the lowest ranked team heading into the repechage, nobody is expecting much from them, but that could play into their hands.
Known as the Simbas, Kenya have a formidable sevens squad but have so far failed to translate their success from the World Sevens Series to 15s.
However head coach Ian Snook has poached five players from the sevens programme to bolster his squad heading into the repechage.
This team will have speed, but playing in France during Autumn means size may prevail in the muddy November weather.
The team lost out on a World Cup spot when they fell to Namibia in the African qualifiers 53-28 in August.
Namibia are ranked 22nd in the world, one behind Hong Kong and one ahead of Canada – simple maths says Kenya may only beat Germany in this tournament, unless their sevens players have something extra to add.
The biggest threat to Hong Kong reaching the World Cup, Canada are most definitely the favourites heading into the tournament but are anything but awe-inspiring right now.
Rugby Canada just endured an ugly pay dispute with its sevens players that dragged on for months, and which has invariably spilled over to the 15s programme.
Vancouver Sun sports reporter Patrick Jonhston said Canada’s standing in the world of rugby has been slipping over the past five years and the programme is struggling to produce “to the same internationally competitive standard that they used to”.
Regardless, the team still boasts a handful of players, including Tyler Ardron, Jake Ilnicki, Brett Beukeboom and Evan Olmstead, who play professionally all over the world at levels higher than the Hong Kong Premiership.
On the downside, apparently a few of the sevens players who may have been picked for the repechage squad stayed home because of the recent funding dispute.
Canada fared well in their two warm-up matches against Oxford and Coventry and this is the Canucks’ tournament to squander, but nobody would be too surprised if Hong Kong squeaked out a win against a superb, but momentarily-distracted team from the Great White North.