Hong Kong U20s out for success in Junior World Rugby Trophy
Hong Kong National U20s men's team off to Lisbon, Portugal next month to contest the World Rugby U20 Trophy
30 April, 2015BACK TO NEWS
A year on from qualifying for last year's Junior World Rugby Trophy as hosts, Hong Kong have qualified outright for World Rugby U20 Trophy, the sister tournament to the World Rugby U20 Championship, after running the table at the Asian Qualifiers in Sri Lanka last September.
The World Rugby U20 Trophy will be held from 12-24 May in Lisbon. The eighth edition of this age-grade tournament will see pool stages held on 12, 16 and 20 May, with the final taking place on Sunday 24 May. The winner graduates to the U20 Championship for the following year. Likewise, the team that finishes last in the Championship is relegated and takes part in the U20 Trophy the year after.
Fiji and Canada are the top seeds in 2015 and head Pools A and B, respectively. Fiji were relegated after last year's U20 Championship in New Zealand. They will face Georgia, Portugal and South American hopefuls Uruguay in Pool A.
Canada head Pool B alongside Tonga, Namibia and Hong Kong. Hong Kong will play Tonga on 12 May, Canada on 16 May and Namibia on 20 May in the pool stages with a placing match on 24 May.
The difference a year makes was notable for Hong Kong U20s coach Pale Tauti, "We are excited to be returning to the U20 Trophy. This is the first time that we qualified in our own right and we have taken confidence from that. We aren't going into the tournament just to make up the numbers."
Tauti is also excited about the prospect of returning to the U20 Trophy with a more experienced squad. Many of last year's team are still age eligible to participate, giving Tauti the luxury of selecting 18 of the 26 players who mounted an unbeaten run last September to win the Asian qualifier in Sri Lanka.
"Last year we lacked a bit of experience competing at this level and probably a few players were overawed by the occasion, but that is behind us and I think we learned that we belong at this level.
"We are returning stronger, more experienced and smarter. One of the lessons we learned was the need to improve our decision-making and our patience levels and I think the high number of players returning will be a real asset in addressing these issues.
"We have a lot of young players that moved on from the JWRT to play prominent roles in the HKRFU Premiership and Premiership A leagues and we have leaders right across the park now. We are going to back ourselves a bit more than we did last year.
"We've got absolutely nothing to lose and for quite a few of the guys this will be their last opportunity to represent Hong Kong at National Age Grade level. They want to go out on a high," Tauti added.
Starting from a wider training squad of 65 players who participated in a five-day training camp over the Christmas holiday, the squad was winnowed down to 34 places for a second extended camp over Easter. Hong Kong also played a local Barbarians side and New South Wales Country Schools as part of their final preparations.
In Portugal, Hong Kong will face familiar opposition in Canada, Tonga and Namibia – all three teams took part in the 2014 tournament in Hong Kong. Improving match by match on that occasion, Hong Kong held their own against the more experienced U20s teams last year, even leading Canada 21-7 at halftime in their final match of the tournament before losing 30-33.
The goal will to be to go one better and not just pick up their first U20 Trophy win but to claim the pool itself. To assist in this goal, the management team has named two of Hong Kong's most promising young players in Hugo Stiles and Raef Morrison co-captains for the upcoming tour.
"Hugo played fantastically well at the qualifiers in Sri Lanka and played well for Valley in the Premiership last season. He was selected for the senior sevens squad for Tokyo so his experience and leadership are really growing," Tauti said.
"To complement him we have selected Raef Morrison as the other co-captain. Raef is well known and highly respected in the community. He is another player with significant experience in the senior side and will help give us balance for Portugal in terms of on-pitch leadership," added Tauti.
After a three-day camp in early May to fine-tune their structures, the squad will depart for Portugal on 7 May.
Hong Kong U20s Squad for the World Rugby U20 Trophy
12-24 May, Lisbon, Portugal
Aiden BRADLEY (USRC Tigers), Thomas CHEUNG (City RFC), Hugo CHUI (HKFC), James CHRISTIE (Newcastle RFC), Daniel DAVIDSON (Tigers), Joshua DAVIES (Tigers), Kenneth ENCARNACION (Gai Wu), Finley FIELD (Edinburgh Uni), Kevin FIELD (Edinburgh Uni), Li Tsz HIN (Tin Shui Wai), Tomos HOWELLS (Tigers), Calvin HUNTER (Tigers), Eric KWOK (Tigers),Sjors LAURIJSEN (HK Scottish), Richard Lewis (HKFC), Callum McFEAT-SMITH (HKFC),John William MARKLEY (Valley), Raef MORRISON co-captain (Edinburgh Uni), Alessandro NARDONI (HK Scottish), Liam OWENS (Valley), Alexander POST (HK Cricket Club), Ron SIEW (Tigers), Cameron SMITH (HKFC), Hugo STILES co-captain (Valley), Kyle SULLIVAN (Tonbridge Juddians RFC), Cheuk Hang TANG (Tin Shui Wai).