New-look Hong Kong side heads for tour of Kenya
With as many as 22 top-liners out on Asian sevens series duty, opportunities aplenty are available across two matches next week
Hong Kong coach Leigh Jones is expecting his new-look side to come under a thorough examination as they embark on a two-game tour of Kenya.
The team left on Thursday and will next week play a friendly and a test match against the host nation in the Hong Kong 15s side’s first tour outside of Asia since 2012.
With a host of top-line players staying home to prepare for the upcoming Asia Rugby Sevens Series, Jones is looking forward to testing his 28-strong squad.
“We need high intensity games for the non-eligible players in the elite rugby programme,” Jones said.
“This unique group needs a test. They have been working very hard and doing everything asked of them but they want to play rugby. This tour gives those players a rare opportunity to play together as a team.”
The “unique group” will be made up predominantly of players from the programme, but Jones also had an eye on the future at selection, including four players who are either in the under-20 programme or have recently graduated.
These are forwards Alexander Post and Mike Parfitt and backs Hugo Stiles and Liam Owens, while Finlay Field, who debuted against South Korea earlier this year, is also on board.
“It’s great to have the young guys involved,” Jones said.
“In the past we haven’t been able to keep tabs on them or influence their rugby or physical development and ultimately they lose out on three years of preparation.
“Recently we have started to reverse that trend. We are working hard to maintain ties with our top young players both in Hong Kong and overseas to ensure that they are involved at a reasonable playing level.”
Of the players in the programme that are not yet eligible to represent Hong Kong, Valley’s Matthew Rosslee and hooker Ben Roberts are set to become eligible during the tour and are in line to make their debuts.
“Kenya is an important opportunity to examine these players at effectively a test level,” Jones said.
“It will be a fair step up from what they are used to at club level and we will see how they adjust.”
A quick and unpredictable Kenya side will be the perfect test for Hong Kong and Jones knows how important it is for his side to gel as a unit.
“It is a full-blown tour with test rugby,” said Jones.
“We are travelling effectively without 22 first-class players committed to the sevens build-up and Kenya are a big, athletic outfit. They have lots of pace and individual power. I think it will come down to our collective strength as opposed to their individuality and I’m interested to see if we can be organised enough on the pitch to nullify their threats.”
Hong Kong previously played Kenya in Dubai in 2011, winning 44-17.
Hong Kong squad
Adam Fullgrabe, Adam Rolston, Adrian Griffiths, Alex Ng Wai-shing, Alexander Post, Ben Higgins, Ben Roberts, Charles Cheung Ho-ning, Charles Higson-Smith, Conor Hartley, Daniel Falvey, Edmund Rolston, Finlay Field, Hugo Stiles, Jack Parfitt, Michael Parfitt, Jamie Robinson, Jamie Tsang, Jason Kjestrup, Jonny Rees, Liam Owens, Matthew Lamming, Matthew Rosslee, Nick Hewson (c), Cheung Ho-yin, Rohan Cook, Tony Wong Ho-yeung, Tyler Spitz