‘Surprise’ call-up for local favourite Cado Lee as Hong Kong face Cook Islands in second leg of Rugby World Cup qualifier
Leigh Jones’ men hold the advantage after winning the first leg last week as they look to take one step closer to the finals in Japan
Leg two of Hong Kong’s most important game in rugby history is fast approaching but local star and “surprise” addition Cado Lee Ka-to insists the team are flying with confidence after their 26-3 away-tie trouncing of the Cook Islands last week.
“Certainly, from where we were a few years back to now, the whole team – especially the forwards – has improved a lot,” said 26-year-old Lee, who did not travel to Rarotonga but is scheduled to make a rare start against the South Pacific outfit at Hong Kong Football Club on Saturday.
The aggregate winners move into a four-team repechage, just one stage away from qualifying for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, its inaugural Asia event.
“It’s surprising,” said Lee, who focused on passing distribution and movement during the team training on Friday evening. “Liam [Slatem] got a knock in the game last week so Leigh [Jones] called me up to fill the number nine spot because he felt we play a similar style.
“Everyone has been excellent and know their roles; it gives us confidence. I just have to play mine and focus on what I need to do: get my passes to the [fly-half] and play with the forwards,” said Hong Kong sevens regular Lee, who spent much of last season in the Japan Top League with NEC Green Rockets.
“It’s quite different because I’ve just come back from injury and was training towards the sevens, but now they want me back and I’m delighted.”
Jones’ men returned home with a comfortable lead despite the staggering 18-hour time difference between Hong Kong and Cook Islands. With limited time to regroup, the team underwent some last-minute fine-tuning in a brief Football Club training session on the eve of the big day.
Despite the healthy lead and high spirits, Lee – like the backroom staff – refuses to look past the repechage play-off.
“You can’t think ahead about ‘what if we win’,” said Lee. “We only think about tomorrow’s game and if we get a win, we can plan.
“I think everyone will feel a bit nervous but it’s a good [type] of nervous to have – we need to bring that intensity and attitude to the game … and focus on what’s in front of us.”
Lee, along with winger and more regular featured Salom Yiu Kam-shing, will be hoping local Hong Kong fans will either be tuning in either in person or via the live stream.
“It’s a great opportunity for us and for Hong Kong to be at the World Cup,” said Lee.
Fly-half Ben Rimene and hooker Ben Roberts return to the squad from injury, while young Adam Fullgrabe and Max Denmark’s solid performances have earned starts against the Islands.
While the rest of the team remain largely unchanged, forward Nick Hewson is set to etch his name in Hong Kong history as the city’s highest-capped international player. Veteran Hewson will mark his 56th cap in a career going back to 2009.
Hong Kong squad to face the Cook Islands second leg:
Adam Fullgrabe, Ben Roberts, Dylan Rogers, James Cunningham (Captain), Jack Delaforce, Nick Hewson, Toby Fenn, Thomas Lamboley, Cado Lee Ka-to, Matthew Rosslee, Max Denmark, Lex Kaleca, Max Woodward, Salom Yiu Kam-shing, Jack Neville, Alexander Post, Dan Barlow, Jack Parfitt, Mick Parfitt, Kane Boucaut, Jamie Lauder, Ben Rimene, Jamie Hood