20 Jun 2019

Coach Andrew Hall is calling for a ‘reaction’ when Hong Kong plays Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.  Malaysia surprised Hong Kong by keeping uncomfortably close in a 30-24 defat at Hong Kong Football Club last Saturday, and Hall knows that they will be a tougher out away.

Hong Kong are defending a first ever Asian title after sweeping the competition in last year tournament played without Rugby World Cup hosts Japan, and are out to repeat in this year’s triangular.

Hong Kong’s rotational depth is on display in the selection with nine players entering the match day 23 this week, including a new front row pod of Ben Higgins, Alexander Post and Grant Kemp who will look to continue Hong Kong’s dominance of the dirty work from Football Club.

“We are in the fortunate position to be selecting from a position of strength now, with almost everyone healthy, which gives us choice in depth. We are picking a team that will give us a reaction to last Saturday. There has been a fair bit of mirror-looking this week and I think the players have acknowledged that the performance was unacceptable.

“We have drawn a line under it and moved on and the focus this week has been on the individual, individuals getting their individual roles right, which did not happen last week. Did they underestimate Malaysia? Probably they did, and they got what they deserved for that.”

Hooker Mitch Andrews who earned his first cap last weekend and scored on debut will back up from the reserves along with last week starter Dan Barlow.

A consistent engine room supports the new coalface with Kyle Sullivan extending his run of appearances in the ARC to three this season, locking with fellow young veteran Fin Field.  The back row of James Cunningham, Callum McCullough and Kane Boucaut is retained for another weekend’s graft with Sam Tsoi and Cris Pierrepont both earning second selections against Malaysia this weekend.

Hall is expecting a second dominant outing for the pack against Malaysia, saying, “Our scrum last week performed particularly well and if we didn’t have that platform I’m not sure we would have won. We will need the scrum to be a weapon again for us this weekend, but I am sure that Malaysia will have spent considerable time this week preparing for that.”

Liam Slatem steps back in at nine Jack Neville starting at fly half moving Paul Altier back into full back for this weekend.  Matt Rosslee starts at inside centre with Tyler Spitz partnering outside while Conor Hartley and Harry Sayers will offer a physical wing pairing.

Last week’s centre pairing Ben Axten-Burrett and Lewis Warner move to the bench with Jamie Lauder backing up Slatem on the bench.

After leaving numerous tries on the pitch last time out, Hall is looking for improved execution in Kuala Lumpur.

They will be 10 to 20 points better at home, but we also left six or seven tries on the park last time out, so there are two sides to that coin. We expect to take advantage from our platform this week - we won’t get everything our way -  but we expect to make our possession count far more than it did last week.

Prop Faisal Solomona comes in for his first cap for Hong Kong on Saturday starting off the bench, becoming the tenth player capped this campaign.

“It’s another opportunity for a new player in the squad and I’m pleased for him. Faisal is a real powerhouse, our tight heads are growing all the time in their ability to scrum and Faisal is an explosive ball carrier and to have a tight forward with that ability to impact and dent the defensive line is an exciting prospect,” added Hall.

Hong Kong Squad v Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur, 22 June): 1. Ben HIGGINS, 2. Alex POST, 3. Grant KEMP, 4. Fin FIELD, 5. Kyle SULLIVAN, 6. Callum MCCULLOUGH, 7. James CUNNINGHAM, 8. Kane BOUCAUT, 9. Liam SLATEM (C), 10. Jack NEVILLE, 11. Conor HARTLEY, 12. Matt ROSSLEE, 13. Tyler SPITZ, 14. Harry SAYERS, 15. Paul ALTIER, 16. Mitch ANDREWS, 17. Dan BARLOW, 18. Faisal SOLOMONA, 19.Sam TSOI, 20. Cris PIERREPONT, 21. Jamie LAUDER, 22. Benjamin AXTEN-BURRETT, 23. Lewis WARNER