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TEST RUGBY RETURNS TO MONG KOK STADIUM FOR FIRST TIME SINCE ‘99
[HONG KONG, May 24, 2012]: With the mission of staying amongst Asia’s rugby elite for yet another year accomplished, Hong Kong has set their sights on ending the 2012 HSBC Asian Five Nations (HSBC A5N) Top Five competition with a flourish as they take on Kazakhstan in the final round on Saturday at the newly renovated Mong Kok Stadium.
National coach Dai Rees has called for the team to emulate Japan’s playing style as Hong Kong aim to become the only team other than Japan to stay in the Top Five competition since the HSBC A5N began in 2008.
“We will be looking to play the same high continuity game that Japan played against us,” Rees said.
“This style of game, moving the ball away from prolonged contact and shifting the point of attack will move their big men around the park and tire them out.”
But Rees has warned Hong Kong that Kazakhstan will be playing for their lives. Kazakhstan, along with perennial champions Japan and Hong Kong, are the only teams to have played in every Top Five competition so far. But having to replace the departure of key players has left Kazakhstan with a poor run of results this season. They have lost to Japan, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates, placing them on the brink of elimination.
“They need a good win to avoid relegation, so they will be like a wounded animal and will play like one. They will be playing for their lives,” Rees said.
Hong Kong will miss fullback Ross Armour for the final match. Armour was cited for dangerous play against Japan and is serving a two-match ban. His place will be filled by Alex McQueen. There are also question marks surrounding the fitness of flyhalf Keith Robertson and tighthead prop Steve Nolan, both of whom are carrying injuries from the Tokyo encounter, which Japan won 67-0. Hong Kong will make a late assessment on both, but for now the pair has been penciled in by Rees.
The rest of the squad remains mostly unchanged. There will be two changes to the starting lineup with flanker Mark Goosen replacing Mark Wright and outside centre Ally Maclay coming in for Anthony Haynes.
Robertson, if fit, is set to resume his partnership with Cado Lee who started for the first time in the HSBC A5N against Japan last week.
“As a 20-year-old making his first HSBC A5N start against Japan was a baptism of fire for Cado but he did well,” said Rees. “We felt he earned the opportunity to have a run-out at home in a game where we expect him to have a bit more ball to play with.”
Lee’s role in Tokyo was purely defensive as the Asian champions dominated possession and mounted attacks with pace and power, scoring 11 tries in an emphatic win.
“We are sore but we aren’t broken,” Rees said. “The guys are looking forward to the opportunity to play against Kazakhstan at home and to christen Mong Kok Stadium with a big win for the fans.”
It will be the first time in 13 years that an international will be played at Mong Kok Stadium which has been newly renovated to increase its seating capacity to 6,600. Hong Kong will also be playing on grass at home after a long time.
“It is very exciting for us to be playing at a new venue although it will be interesting in terms of playing on grass rather than the artificial surface as at the Hong Kong Football Club,” Rees said.
“If it is dry there won’t be much difference in the surfaces and the grass will likely be a benefit for us as an artificial surface takes a bit more out of the players’ legs.
“Entry to the game at Mong Kok is free so we are hoping that the rugby community, and all of the great support we get at Hong Kong Football Club, will come out for the game and that we will be able to attract new audiences as well, as we will be in the heart of Kowloon and in the heart of the local population,” Rees added.
Hong Kong Squad v Kazakhstan:
1. Ian Ridgway (HKFC), 2. Thomas Bolland (HKFC), 3. Stephen Nolan (HKFC), 4. Charles French (HKCC), 5. Daniel Watson (HKFC), 6. Nick Hewson (Valley), 7. Mark Goosen (Kowloon), 8. Pale Tauti (Captain, DeA), 9. Cado Lee (Kowloon), 10. Keith Robertson (DeA), 11. Rowan Varty (DeA), 12. Lee Jones (Valley), 13. Ally Maclay (Valley), 14. Yiu Kam Shing (Valley), 15. Alex McQueen (HKCC), 16. Alex NG, Wai Shing (Valley), 17. Alex Harris (Kowloon), 18. Renaud Chavanis (HKFC), 19. Mark Wright (Toyota Shokki Shuttles, Japan), 20, Peter McKee (HKFC) 21. Michael Glancy (HKFC), 22. Anthony Haynes (HKCC).