ZIMBABWE – Hong Kong will blood eight players against Zimbabwe tonight in the inaugural Hong Kong Rugby Union Cup of Nations.
Top seeds Russia take on Portugal in the 4pm opening match of the round- robin competition at Hong Kong Football Club.
Hong Kong captain Nick Hewson expects a tough test against Zimbabwe, who have drawn their team from players based as far afield as Germany.
“They may be pulling together a team from fairly widely spread territory but these guys are coming from Sharks in South Africa and some good clubs in the United Kingdom and Europe,” Hewson said.
“So they may be coming together late, but they can call upon players with good experience and skill.”
Hong Kong beat Zimbabwe 22-7 in their only previous meeting in Dubai, in 2012.
“That result was a long while ago, so we aren’t looking too much at that game,” Hewson said. “But they have a very heavy forward pack and our first order of business is to combat that. I remember them being very physical. We needed to exert a lot of effort to stop the momentum of their heavy ball-carrying forwards.
“They won the African Cup in 2014 and played Russia in the Rugby World Cup repechage and competed well, so we are under no illusions about their quality.”
Zimbabwe’s captain, Denford Mutamangira, a tight head prop who has been in the Glasgow Warriors and Sharks set-ups, said the current team have only one veteran from 2012 and will offer a different proposition to that in Dubai.
Hong Kong coach Andrew Hall has tipped eight of his 12 new players in the expanded squad for potential caps tonight with five cracking the starting XV.
Loose head prop Rohan Cook and flanker James Cunningham both earn first starts for Hong Kong, while scrum- half Tom Marshall, winger Bradley Raper and center Lex Kaleca are the new faces in the back line. Front rowers Jamie Tsang and Jamie Pincott and center James Robinson start from the bench.
The rest of the matches will be played on Tuesday and next Saturday. Admission is free. SQUAD: Rohan Cook, Alex Harris, Jack Parfitt, Jack Delaforce, Adrian Griffiths, James Cunningham, Matt Lamming, Nick Hewson (captain), Tom Marshall, Ben Rimene, Brad Raper, Lex Kaleca, Tyler Spitz, Charles Higson- Smith, Edmund Rolston; REPLACEMENTS: Alex Ng Wai-shing, Jamie Tsang, Jamie Pincott, Paul Dwyer, Toby Fenn, Charles Cheung Ho- ning, Niall Rowark, Jamie Robinson.