Sri Lanka attempt ‘Fijian fix’ for Hong Kong clash
Coach Leigh Jones unfazed by move after naming strong starting line-up for Colombo encounter
Hong Kong could run into a wall of Fijians with Sri Lanka making hasty plans to field three Pacific islanders for their Asian Five Nations clash on Saturday.
It is understood the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union (SLRFU) is trying to fast-track passports for a forward and two backs.
Sri Lanka are captained by Namal Rajapaksa, whose father is president of the South Asian country.
While there was opposition in the past to Sri Lanka fielding foreign-born players, it is understood the policy has been shelved as they attempt to improve their international standing - currently 39th compared with Hong Kong's 26th.
"Attempts are being made to get them passports. Two of the Fijians are very keen to play for Sri Lanka, but there is a small issue with the third and management is trying to resolve that now," said a source close to the SLRFU.
The presence of Fijians could transform Sri Lanka on the field at sevens, but in 15s Hong Kong are unlikely to be troubled, and head coach Leigh Jones named a strong starting line-up.
There are four changes in the pack from the Philippines game last Saturday, with blindside flanker Nick Hewson, hooker Tom Bolland, tighthead James Cooper and lock Jack Delaforce coming in.
In the backs, scrum-half Jamie Hood will replace Kenneth Hsieh, who is not part of the 23-man squad who leave Thursday night for Colombo. Tom McQueen returns from injury and will man the right wing, taking over from Salom Yiu Kam-shing, while former captain Tom McColl will start at full-back, replacing Alex McQueen.
"The competition for places is strong leading up to the final two games and I wanted to give everyone a fair shout to put their hands up for the Korea game and for Japan," Jones said.
"The competition in the squad is really healthy and I think it is adding a positive dynamic, hence the changes. If I thought they would compromise our performance I wouldn't have gone for it, but I don't think it will."
Hong Kong squad
1. Leon Wei Hon-sum; 2. Thomas Bolland; 3. James Cooper; 4. Jack Delaforce; 5. Paul Dwyer; 6. Nicholas Hewson (captain); 7. Matt Lamming; 8. Pale Tauti; 9. Jamie Hood; 10. Chris McAdam; 11. Rowan Varty; 12. Jake Phelps; 13. Lloyd Jones; 14. Tom McQueen; 15. Tom McColl; 16. Alex Ng Wai-shing; 17. Steve Nolan; 18. Alex Harris; 19. Bill Brant; 20. Alex Baddeley; 21. Peter McKee; 22. Alex McQueen; 23. Nick Wheatley