First meeting for Hong Kong and Tunisia

(IRB.COM) Friday 4 April 2008
 First meeting for Hong Kong and Tunisia
Rowan Varty switches from Sevens to XVs for Hong Kong

Hong Kong step up their preparations for the inaugural Asian Five Nations with a first ever Test against Tunisia on Saturday, a match which will see both sides feature several players who were in action at the world famous Cathay Pacific/Credit Suisse Hong Kong Sevens last weekend.

Rowan Varty and Kenzo Pannell were among those who helped Hong Kong reach the Bowl semi-final, while the majority of Tunisia’s Sevens squad have stayed on for the Test at the Hong Kong Football Club – including captain Amor Mazgar, Lofti Ben M’Sallem and Sabir Gmir.

“The challenge we’ve got right now is that this is the first week we have our Sevens boys. There will be a fair bit of organisation involved as we didn’t have the Sevens guys the previous three weeks. We will need to work to gel the team,” Hong Kong coach John Walters admitted.

Hong Kong are the higher ranked of the two nations in the IRB World Rankings at 27th and as a result a victory in the first of two Tests with Tunisia – the second away in Tunis next weekend – is unlikely to have an impact on their position, although their visitors could slip one to 36th in defeat.

However were Tunisia to leave Hong Kong with a victory then they could edge closer to their highest ever ranking of 29th from four years ago, climbing over their hosts who would face the prospect of setting a new lowest ranking, the exact position depending on the scoreline.

Contest hots up in Europe 

The weekend’s only other Test match takes place in Odense on Saturday when Denmark host the higher ranked Switzerland in the first European Nations Cup match outside of the top division to be played in 2008.

Switzerland currently sit seven places and 1.71 rating points above their hosts at 52nd in the IRB World Rankings, but they suffered a narrow 24-22 defeat on home soil in Basel when the two Division 3A sides last met in March 2007.

That victory is Denmark’s only win in their six Division 3A matches played so far in the two-year competition and leaves them fourth of the five teams with nine points, one more than bottom side Serbia who they drew 17-17 with in their last match in Odense back in October.

Switzerland are two places and three points better off than Denmark, but will still be hungry for victory in their penultimate match of the competition to both ease the threat of relegation and keep their hopes of promotion to Division 2B alive.

An away victory for Switzerland could see them climb three or four places in the rankings with less than four tenths separating them in 52nd and the Cook Islands in 49th, although a win by 15 points or more may see them also move above Chinese Taipei.

In the event of a loss then Denmark may slide as many as six places to their lowest ever position, but were they to taste victory then they potentially could take over Switzerland’s spot and become the higher placed of the two nations, such is the tight nature of this section of the rankings.

The IRB World Rankings update every Monday at 12:00 UK time.