The IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2014 will be staged in Asia for the first time when it kicks off at Hong Kong Football Club on 7 April, and the home side are determined to make a big impact on their first appearance in the tournament.
Hong Kong’s Under 20 side will line up with the future stars of world rugby from seven nations in Canada, Georgia, Japan, Namibia, Tonga, USA and Uruguay for the seventh edition of the Trophy.
The host nation will look to the likes of back row Chris Maize of DeA, and Hong Kong Football Club flanker Raef Morrison for inspiration as they prepare to take on USA, Tonga and Georgia in Pool A.
The talented duo were involved with the Hong Kong senior Sevens squad that played at the Zimbabwe Sevens last weekend, and are in consideration for the renowned Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens later this week.
Maize and Morrison are also elite rugby athletes at the Hong Kong Sports Institute, while second row Mike Parfitt of Hong Kong Cricket Club was training with the Hong Kong Fifteens squad before the series with Belgium last December, but had to withdraw through illness.
“Chris and Raef are obviously influential players for us. Chris is just coming back from injury. That’s the only real worry we have – that players get injured. But we are happy with how our preparations have gone for the tournament,” said team manager Paul Renouf.
Despite this Hong Kong coach Pale Tauti is under no illusions as to the size of the task awaiting his young charges who will become the third Asian side to play in a Junior World Rugby Trophy after Korea and Japan.
Unique experience for hosts
“We’ll be going in as underdogs for every game but we’ll be looking to be very competitive, if not get the win. I’ve a lot of confidence in the personnel that we have,” Tauti said.
“The pressure won’t get to them. Most of them have either been featuring in senior men’s domestic rugby here in Hong Kong or played at under-age national level. It means they’re getting exposure to adult rugby, which only helps their development.
“It’s an amazing event and it will be a unique experience for the team.”
To rally the support of the Hong Kong community for the team, the Under 20 squad will have the honour of leading the March Past during the final day of the Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, which takes place from Friday to Sunday at Hong Kong Stadium.
Admission to all 16 matches of the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2014 at the Hong Kong Football Club will be free, with pool matches taking place on 7, 11 and 15 April with finals day on 19 April.
2012 winners USA, who were relegated from the IRB Junior World Championship last year, are top seeds for the tournament, although 2013 runners-up Canada will fancy their chances of success with matches against Japan, Uruguay and Namibia in Pool B.
The winner of the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy in Hong Kong will earn promotion to next year’s IRB Junior World Championship in Italy.
Hong Kong squad
Ryan Aylsworth (HK Scottish), Sebastien Brien (Newcastle), James Christie (Newcastle), Zac Cinnamond (HKCC), Patrick Cook (Valley), Michael Coverdale (HKFC), Elliot Croft (University of Nottingham), Joseph Dignan (HKCC), Fin Field (HKCC), Kevin Field (DeA), Calvin Hunter (DeA), Jason Jeyam (DeA), Oscar Kurton (DeA), Eric Kwok (City RFC), Chris Maize (DeA), John Markley (Valley), Raef Morrison (HKFC), Nicholas Ngan Kee (HK Scottish), Liam Owens (Valley), Michael Parfitt (HKCC), Rupert Phillips (DeA), Alexander Post (HKCC), Andrew Purton (HKFC), Theo Rolston (Valley), Hugo Stiles (Valley), Vincent Young (Kowloon).
Raef Morrison will be a player to watch for Hong Kong in the Junior World Rugby Trophy