NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 19 –Hong Kong arrived in Nairobi on Friday morning ahead of their international friendly matches against Kenya “A” and Kenya Simbas on August 23 and 27th respectively.
The strong squad of 28 is notable for the inclusion of several current players and recent graduates of the HKRU U20 programmes. The team also includes a majority of the members of the new Elite Rugby Programme (ERP), Hong Kong’s first ever professional programme for fifteens rugby. Back row forward Nick Hewson will captain the squad on tour.
Four players from the NAG ranks have been named to the squad, including forwards Alexander Post and Mike Parfitt and backs Hugo Stiles and Liam Owens. The four join Finlay Field, another U20s veteran who marked his senior debut versus South Korea at home earlier this year.
All four of the NAG players selected have served as captains or vice-captains of the Hong Kong U20s teams in both fifteens and sevens with Hugo Stiles leading the U20s Sevens team in the Asia Rugby U20s Sevens in Hong Kong last week.
Stiles captained the team at the Junior World Trophy in 2015 and has participated in all three of Hong Kong’s appearances at that premier international age grade tournament (2014-16).
Owens also captained the U20s Sevens squad before aging out from the competition, while Post previously led Hong Kong in the Asian qualifiers for the Junior World Trophy.
Head Coach Leigh Jones said, “It’s great to have the young guys involved. In the past we haven’t been able to keep tabs on them or influence their rugby or physical development and ultimately they lose out on three years of preparation,” the coach said when the team touched down at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
“Recently we have started to reverse that trend. We are working hard to maintain ties with our top young players both in Hong Kong and overseas to ensure that they are involved at a reasonable playing level and provide them with solid programmes while monitoring their progress.”
“Kenya is an important opportunity to examine these players at effectively a test level. It will be a fair step up from what they are used to at club level and we will see how they adjust,” he added.
“Kenya and Zimbabwe have come close to qualifying for the Rugby World Cup. We are targeting to reach that stage again for 2019, so it is advantageous to measure ourselves against our potential opposition. We have played Zimbabwe in the last few years in the Cup of Nations so this is a great opportunity to front up against Kenya, a team we haven’t played in several years,” said Dai Rees, GM of Performance Rugby at the HKRU who will serve as Manager on tour.
Jones is under no illusions about the challenges: “We are travelling effectively without 22 first-class players committed to the sevens build-up and Kenya are a big, athletic outfit. They have lots of pace and individual power. I think it will come down to our collective strength as opposed to their individuality and I’m interested to see if we can be organised enough on the pitch to nullify their threats.”
Hong Kong previously played Kenya in Dubai in 2011, winning 44-17 en route to a victory in the four-team tournament that also included Brazil and the UAE.
Hong Kong Team for Tour of Kenya
Adam FULLGRABE, Adam ROLSTON, Adrian GRIFFITHS, Alex NG Wai-shing, Alexander POST, Ben HIGGINS, Ben ROBERTS, Charles CHEUNG Ho-ning, Charles HIGSON-SMITH, Conor HARTLEY, Daniel FALVEY, Edmund ROLSTON, Finlay FIELD, Hugo STILES, Jack PARFITT, Michael PARFITT, Jamie ROBINSON, Jamie TSANG, Jason KJESTRUP, Jonny REES, Liam OWENS, Matthew LAMMING, Matthew ROSSLEE, Nick HEWSON (Captain), CHEUNG Ho-yin, Rohan COOK, Tony WONG Ho-yeung, Tyler SPITZ.