Hong Kong wing Rowan Varty scored his 4th HSBC A5N Hat-Trick in Dubai
Hong Kong has rung in the changes for the crucial encounter against South Korea in the HSBC Asian Five Nations Top 5 tournament at Hong Kong Football Club Saturday (Kick-off at 16.00).
Tighthead prop Steve Nolan will make his HSBC A5N debut after being passed fit to take up his place in the front row alongside Hong Kong Football Club teammates, loosehead Ian Ridgway and hooker Tom Bolland.
Nolan, who figured in Hong Kong’s victorious campaign at the inaugural Emirates Airlines Cup of Nations in Dubai last December, has recovered from an operation on his ankle and a calf strain that kept him out of the opening 85-10 victory over the United Arab Emirates last weekend.
“He is fit and ready to go. It will be the first time that the Hong Kong Football Club trio will be starting for Hong Kong in an international. We expect a lot from them,” said HKRFU Head of Performance and Coaching Dai Rees.
Nolan’s inclusion will see Jack Bennett move to the bench while hooker Alex Harris, who started against the UAE, will make way for Bolland. The only other change in the forwards will see flanker Mark Goosen replace Mark Wright who has lost his place in the 22-man squad.
In the backs, Hong Kong Football Club’s fly-half Mike Glancy is expected to come in for Keith Robertson who has still not recovered from a shoulder injury he suffered during the first five minutes of the UAE encounter.
Glancy, who became eligible to play for Hong Kong two months ago, is set to win his first cap and will form the halves combination with Club teammate Peter McKee.
"Keith is still 50-50 and we have placed Mike (Glancy) on standby," Rees said.
Hong Kong’s backline accounted for a dozen of the 14 tries scored against UAE but senior coach Leigh Jones has still tinkered with it, with fullback Ross Armour moving to the bench and being replaced by Alex McQueen. Kowloon scrumhalf Cado Lee also comes in as a replacement. He will shunt out Tim Alexander.
Korea will present an unknown danger to Hong Kong who has replaced them as Asia’s number two team. Last year Korea was missing from the Top Five competition after being relegated in 2010. They will be keen to make up for lost time.
“We are wary of the threat that Korea bring. The last time we played them was two years ago and they are a bit of an unknown quantity to us now,” said Rees.
In their last encounter, Hong Kong defeated Korea 32-8 in the 2010 HSBC A5N at Hong Kong Football Club.
Korean coach Seo, Chun-Oh, a former centre for the Korea teams of the mid 1980s which used to frequently beat Japan, commented on Korea’s return to the top flight saying:
“Being demoted to Division I was a bit of a blow to our rugby ego. But I believe that the Korean Rugby Union has learned this bitter lesson and we are prepared to fight and give our all to stay in Asia’s elite competition. In some ways relegation was a blessing, as we are not entering this match or this year’s Top 5 with any complacency. Over the five years of this tournament the standard of the top teams in Asia has grown steadily and we understand the need to keep pace with this growth,” said Seo.
“Our preparations have gone very well. We have been in camp for three weeks and the timing worked out well that many of the Korean players who play professionally in Japan were home after the end of the Top League. Our negotiations with their clubs in Japan have gone very well and we are pleased that all of the players we requested were released to play in the HSBC A5N. We believe that we have a very strong side,” added Seo.
Alongside the seven Japan-based professional players in the 22, Korea is also relying on a mix of several experienced domestic players, including six from the Korean Army club, and five new caps.
“We are very excited about the next generation of local players coming through. Technically they are more proficient than they have been in the past and also they are physically much bigger than previous generations,” concluded Seo.
Coach Seo revels in the absence of the favourites tag, saying, “It is a very good thing for Korea to enter the tournament without the mantle of favourites or as Asia’s number two. I think it gives us more flexibility in our approach and also it has helped us avoid being complacent.
“I believe that we will see a whole new style of Korean rugby with the experienced players helping to settle the squad and provide the necessary leadership but the young local players really reveling in the big stage. What won’t change is our commitment to defence and playing physically. We are proud of our hard tackling and that is something we never want to lose,” promised Seo.
The HSBC A5N Top 5 match between Hong Kong and South Korea will be broadcast live across Asia on ESPN Star Sports. Host Broadcaster TVB will also air the match in its entirety on Monday on TVB Pearl at 12.25am on 7 May. It is only the third time in TVB history that a 15s match has been telecast (following on the two Bledisloe Cups in 2008 and 2010) and marks the first time that a Hong Kong Rugby Football Union test match has been aired domestically for 15 years.
Hong Kong Team v Korea:
1-Ian Ridgway, 2-Tom Bolland, 3-Steve Nolan, 4-Charles French, 5-Dan Watson, 6-Nick Hewson, 7-Mark Goosen, 8-Pale Tauti (captain), 9-Peter McKee, 10-Keith Robertson/Mike Glancy*, 11-Rowan Varty, 12-Lee Jones, 13-Ally Maclay, 14-Salom Yiu Kam-shing, 15-Alex McQueen.
Reserves: 16-Alex Harris, 17-Jack Bennett, 18-Renaud Chavanis, 19-Rory Hussey, 20-Cado Lee, 21-Jamie Hood, 22-Ross Armour.
Korea Team v Hong Kong:
1-Shin Young Jin*, 2-Hwang Min Seo, 3-Heo Woong, 4-You Young Nam, 5-Park Soon Chai, 6-Youn Kwon Woo (captain), 7-Kim Hyun Soo, 8-Lee Kwang Moon, 9-Yang, Youn Hun, 10-Oh, Youn Hyung, 11-Kim, Gwong Min, 12-Kim, Nam Wook, 13-Park, Noh Hoon, 14-Cho, In Soo, 15-Kim, Won Yong.
Reserves: 16-Kim, Sung Hwan, 17-Cho, Jin Hyun*, 18-Kim, Young Nam 19-Lee, Yong Seung*, 20-Park, Wan Yong, 21-Jegal, Bin*, 22-Park, Hong Sik*.
*New Caps, first time representatives for their country.
NB: Squads may change until one hour prior to kick-off