Hong Kong’s U20s team will make its fourth consecutive appearance at the World Rugby U20 Trophy (Aug 29 – Sep 10) in Uruguay. Hong Kong is in Pool B alongside Fiji, Portugal and Uruguay, with its first match coming against Fiji early Wednesday morning, (Aug 30, 3 am). Pool A features Japan, Namibia, Canada and Chile.
After hosting the first ever World Rugby U20 Trophy held in Asia in 2014, Hong Kong qualified for the competition by winning the Asia Rugby title, played at U19s level.
Hong Kong broke their World Rugby U20 Trophy streak of zero wins last year, beating hosts Zimbabwe for their first win at this elite international competition. Coach Andrew Hall and the squad will be hoping to continue that momentum in Uruguay.
“With the five-year eligibility ruling, our U20s become even more important as a talent pool for the senior squad and this is a huge opportunity for players to put their hands up. We had eight former U20s in the test series winning squad in Kenya, which shows how vital this programme is,” Hall emphasised.
Hall’s squad features seven players returning from last year’s campaign, with prop Ken Encarnacion and back Matt Worley marking their third World Rugby U20 Trophy competitions.
Scrumhalf Mark Coebergh is another player who has translated his U20s performance into a regular spot in the HKRU Premiership league and the fringes of national selection; he will captain the squad on tour. The squad also features winger Marcus Ramage who played for Hong Kong in the recent two-test series in Kenya.
“There’s a good mix of experience in the backs with some significant 'new-blood' up front,” said Hall, who hailed Max Denmark as a forward to watch with the just turned 18-year-old making 100-metre sprints in less than 12 seconds.
“This is a great competition to expose players to the higher demands of an international tournament,” said Hall, who can also call upon other x-factor players like Matt Worley.
Hall’s expectations are high, “We expect players to display consistent high performance behaviours, the kind of behaviours that will make me - in my role as head of the Elite Rugby Programme - turn my head.”
“Fiji have big, athletic players who are dangerous in the counter attack and deadly if we turn the ball over. We have worked diligently on minimising these threats and possession and territory are obvious areas of the game that we will need to control against the Fijians,” said Hall.