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Hong Kong Rugby Team Makes Changes for Sri Lanka Clash

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Hong Kong will make a raft of changes to the starting XV against Sri Lanka in Colombo on Saturday as senior coach Leigh Jones looks to confirm his best team before the business end of the IRB Rugby World Cup 2015 qualifiers commences later this month against South Korea and Japan.

Jones who admits to already having a “good idea” of what his best team is, will use the first away match for Hong Kong in the Asian Five Nations to test the mettle of some fresh combinations under hot and humid conditions in Colombo.

“Do I know my best team? Yes. And I think this weekend will help me confirm that in terms of the starting 15 for Korea (next Saturday in Hong Kong),” said Jones.

Hong Kong will meet Japan on 25 May in what is expected to be the battle for the direct berth given to Asia for the World Cup.

Japan, six-time A5N champions, are heavily favoured to win, leaving Hong Kong needing a crucial result against South Korea at Hong Kong Football Club to advance to the initial repechage stage.

For this weekend’s match, Hong Kong will make four changes to the pack which started against the Philippines last Saturday with skipper and blindside flanker Nick Hewson starting after coming off the bench last week.

Hooker Tom Bolland and tight head prop James Cooper also come in while Jack Delaforce is a new face in the second row.

In the backs, Hong Kong’s sevens captain Jamie Hood will start at scrumhalf replacing Kenneth Hsieh while Tom McQueen returns from a shoulder injury to take his place on the right wing displacing Salom Yiu Kam-shing who wasn’t passed fit for this game.

Jones has remained faithful with his mid-field pairing of Hong Kong Football Club duo Jake Phelps and Lloyd Jones and the only other change in the three quarters is Tom McColl starting at fullback instead of Alex McQueen who will be on the bench.

“The competition in the squad is really, really healthy and I think it is adding a positive dynamic, hence the changes,” Jones said. “If I thought they would compromise our performance at all I wouldn’t have gone for it. But I don’t think it will affect our performance levels. We have managed to produce some depth in the squad. The competition for places is strong leading up to the final two games and I wanted to give everyone a fair shout as it were to put their hands up for the Korea game and for the finale against Japan. Having said that, we are very aware of the challenges that Sri Lanka will pose. They were humbled a little bit against South Korea so we need to be ready for a backlash. We have said all along that it will be arrogant to look too far ahead in the competition and are still maintaining our week by week, match by match approach. Sri Lanka are a good physical side with dangerous backs, we will have to ensure that we handle the challenge they pose up front and try to deprive them of good possession. That will be one of the keys for us on Saturday.”

Buoyed by a massive 108-0 victory over the Philippines, Hong Kong will be quietly confident as they take on Sri Lanka who lost their opening encounter last week going down 59-3 to South Korea in Incheon.

Hong Kong Squad for Sri Lanka

1. Leon WEI, Hon Sum, 2. Thomas BOLLAND, 3. James COOPER, 4. Jack DELAFORCE, 5. Paul DWYER, 6. Nicholas HEWSON (Captain), 7. Matt LAMMING, 8. Pale TAUTI, 9. Jamie HOOD, 10. Chris MCADAM, 11. Rowan VARTY, 12. Jake PHELPS, 13. Lloyd JONES, 14. Tom MCQUEEN, 15. Tom MCCOLL, 16. Alex NG, Wai Shing, 17. Steve NOLAN, 18. Alex HARRIS, 19. Bill BRANT, 20. Alex BADDELEY, 21. Peter MCKEE, 22. Alex MCQUEEN, 23. Nick WHEATLEY.

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