01日 7月 2022

The first Hong Kong Men’s XVs squad for an international match in three years was announced on Friday 24th June by Head Coach Lewis Evans, as the squad prepares to head to Korea for the Asia Rugby Championship (ARC) final, which is also a key pathway match to reach RWC 2023. 

“We know our team now and who will be travelling, so we need to focus on key learnings and make sure our sessions in the remaining time we have, address those”, said Evans.


The squad leaves for Korea on July 1st which will give the team and coaches just over a week together to put their plans in place. Three of the Hong Kong Sevens players only joined the XV squad this week after completing their quarantine following the recent European tour; Bryn Phillips, James Sawyer, and Harry Laidler.


Evans did add that all of the coaches are excited but there are so many moving parts - a flexible approach and planning for the unexpected have been the hallmark of the past few years.


“Since the Hong Kong Rugby Union’s Elite Rugby Programme (ERP) ended, we have had to still try and get 30 quality Hong Kong players to train together. Pre-Christmas there was a big group of players but unfortunately, with the ongoing pandemic and the dynamics of it, some players have left and others have good jobs now which means they are unavailable for this game. It is frustrating and it's unfortunate for them as there were some guys we would love to have kept involved.”


He added “Moving forward we just have to adapt. The players we have, have been fantastic with trying to adapt and staying motivated. With this squad we have put together, as coaches, we are confident we can go to Korea and win.”


The last time the Hong Kong XVs team played, resulted in a decisive victory over Korea 64-3 at the end of June 2019 but these are different times and the coaches and players have had to be flexible and resilient in their preparations for this match on July 9th. Korea easily dispatched Malaysia 55-10 a few weeks ago and they themselves have been in camp in Japan to prepare for hosting the ARC final.


“Korea is a good team and they have some Sevens players in their XVs squad too. Their counterattack was very good against Malaysia so we have been working on making sure our defensive line is set. We are aware of their set-piece so we have some scrum focus and we have our work cut out there working with our front row.”


In addition to the group travelling from Hong Kong, there are eight overseas-based players heading in to meet up with the squad in Korea, including two of the front-rowers.


“The dynamics of having those 8 players coming in from abroad has its challenges but they are all quality players and we look forward to having them on the ground and working with them. Some of the guys I know and some of the guys I don't. So I'm really looking forward to seeing them in our first sessions on the 2nd and 3rd of July in Korea and seeing what they are made of”, added Evans.


The squad also comprised four new caps; Hong Kong Football Club pair Joshua Hrstich and John McCormick-Houston, USRC Tigers’ David Tang, and UK-based Jack Combes.


“We have a nice blend of old heads and some new guys coming through. It's such a long lay off and we have had to be conservative with our approach. The Koreans have had a couple of training camps and they had a domestic league so they have an advantage there” added the Head Coach.


Evans remains optimistic and positive, however. “What we have achieved over the past four weeks, what we have achieved with the guys getting them ready physically and with the tactics have been great, and it's a testament to the coaches' preparation and the players being so keen.”


Lewis added that he will probably breathe a sigh of relief once they have everyone together in Korea and rugby can be the focus. “I think everyone is just excited. Everyone just wants to get their boots on and play. There are still so many moving parts to this whole journey itself and the HKRU has been great, so hopefully, all the hard work pays off.”


The touring team of staff, management, coaches and players head to Korea on July 1st for the Asia Rugby Championship 2022 showdown match due to be played on Saturday 9th of July in Incheon.


Four Japanese Rugby Football Union match officials have been appointed for the match by World Rugby and Asia Rugby with Tasuku Kawahara the match referee.


The winners of the key ARC are not only set to be crowned Asian Champs this year but also have an opportunity to travel to Australia to face a rejuvenated Tongan side on Saturday, 23 July 2022 in the RWC 2023 playoff. The winner of that match will earn a place at Rugby World Cup 2023, while the loser still heads to the World Rugby repechage tournament due to take place in November 2022.