14 Jun 2019

After a 47-10 demolition of South Korea last week, Hong Kong has made nine changes ahead of its second test in the FWD Asia Rugby Championship 2019 tomorrow against Malaysia at Hong Kong Football Club (16.00).

Four potential new caps are included in the squad in winger Seb Brien, who has already earned a senior sevens cap, Hong Kong Football Club forward duo Mitch Andrews and Keelan Chapman, and U20s captain Sam Tsoi.

Squad veteran Jamie Tsang starts at hooker, and will assume the captaincy role, with James Cunningham starting on the bench and Liam Slatem given the weekend off.

Other changes see Dan Barlow and Jack Parfitt handed starts after coming off the bench against Korea, along with scrumhalf Bryn Phillips, Craig Lodge and Cris Pierrepont. Paul Altier moves to fly half after playing at fullback in Incheon, while Ben Axten-Burrett shifts a spot inside to make room for Lewis Warner at outside centre with Matt Rosslee earning a break. Rob Keith will start at fullback.

Prop Callum McFeat Smith, scrumhalf Jamie Lauder and centre Tyler Spitz are named in the reserves for the first time this season, alongside last week’s starters Cunningham and Jack Neville.

“We had a good win and a positive start last week. The guys coming in would have liked very much to be a part of that and will give us an injection of energy, as they are smarting a bit from not being involved the last time around,” said Hong Kong coach Andrew Hall.

The selection shows the coaching team’s commitment to recognising players for their domestic form.

“We want to reward the positive form from the domestic competition but couldn’t do it all last week. Sam and Seb were probably the two form outside backs in the domestic league this season.

“Seb has not been capped yet due to his sevens commitments and Mitch is another player who has been very patiently waiting in line for his first cap.

“He offers something different to our other hookers in the way he plays, with his ball carrying ability he is another guy that can bring that energy and explosiveness for us,” said Hall.

The selectors have given a second opportunity to a current U20s representative in as many weeks, with Sam Tsoi joining U20s squad mate Paul Altier in the squad for Malaysia.

“Like Paul last weekend, it is important now at this stage of the world cup cycle that we expose our age grade players to the highest levels, as have Korea, and as I am sure Malaysia will be doing. Having said that, Sam is in the squad on merit alone. He has trained really well with us in the ERP, devoting a lot of his time around his studies, and performed really well in the training match,” said Hall.

Hong Kong will be out for a replay of last weekend’s convincing win, but cannot afford to overlook an improved Malaysian outfit.

“They play a less structured game than Korea, and are not as strong in the set piece, but they have a good lineout. They will look to play a loose, more chaotic game and have some explosive players that can carry it off, so we can’t afford to let them get any momentum,” Hall noted.

Hall is confident that the players understand what is required again on Saturday.

“I think the pressure is more internal now and more personal for the players, in keeping to our standards and in securing their places. We had a win last week, but a week is a long time ago in sport, they understand that.

“We had a disappointing training session on Tuesday and they righted themselves on Thursday, so there is a bit of that edge creeping in. They want to keep that momentum going now,” Hall added.

Hong Kong Squad v Malaysia (HKFC, 15 June): 1. Dan BARLOW, 2. Jamie TSANG ©, 3. Jack PARFITT, 4. Craig LODGE, 5. Kyle SULLIVAN, 6. Callum MCCULLOUGH, 7. Cris PIERREPONT, 8. Kane BOUCAUT, 9. Bryn PHILLIPS, 10. Paul ALTIER, 11. Sebastien BRIEN, 12. Ben AXTEN-BURRETT, 13. Lewis WARNER, 14. Sam PURVIS, 15. Rob KEITH, 16. Mitch ANDREWS, 17. Callum MCFEAT SMITH, 18. Keelan CHAPMAN, 19.Sam TSOI, 20.James CUNNINGHAM, 21. Jamie LAUDER, 22.Jack NEVILLE, 23. Tyler SPITZ