HONG KONG READY FOR REGIONAL CHALLENGERS IN OLYMPUS CAPITAL ASIAN RUGBY JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIP
[3 September, Hong Kong]: The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union’s Under 20 men’s team will join six of Asia’s premier Under 20 sides in the upcoming Olympus Capital Asian Rugby Junior Championship. The Tournament will be held over three match days on Saturday, September 5; Wednesday, September 9; and Saturday, September 13, 2009. All matches will be played at the Hong Kong Football Club.
Alongside the hosts, the participating teams include defending Asian Junior Rugby champions South Korea, as well as Sri Lanka, Thailand, Chinese Taipei, Singapore and Malaysia.
Mr Ross Mitchell, Honorary Secretary General of the Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU) commented on the upcoming competition saying:
“ARFU is delighted to be returning to Hong Kong for the hosting of the U20 Asian Junior Rugby Championship. This competition is a showcase for the future stars of Asian rugby and we know that the crowds will strongly support the event. On behalf of all of our participating Unions, I would like to thank the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union for their efforts in hosting another successful Asian Rugby event.”
“In the past year, we have been greatly encouraged at the noticeable increase in Asian Rugby Unions wanting to participate at U20 level. As a result, we shall once again be holding two divisional championships this year, with a further 8 teams expressing their desire to play in the Division 2 tournament in Manila this November. Our long-term goal is to institute a promotion and relegation mechanism between the two Divisions in Asia, providing even further competition at this level,” added Mitchell.
South Korea, winners of the 2008 Under 20 championship held in Buan, Korea, are ranked first seeds overall and have an opening round bye to the semi finals. South Korea will make its tournament debut on Wednesday against the winners of Saturday’s Thailand v Chinese Taipei match.
In 2008, Hong Kong’s Under 20 team reached the final before losing to Korea 11-19. This year, Hong Kong will be out for revenge in front of its home crowds. Based on their runners-up finish in Buan, Hong Kong is seeded second in this year’s championship.
Sri Lanka finished third in the 2008 championship beating Thailand in a nail-biting 3rd/4th place playoff match that saw nine tries scored and the lead change hands three times in the second half before Sri Lanka emerged victorious 35-33. Based on these results, Sri Lanka is the third seed for the Olympus Capital Asian Junior Rugby Championship, followed by Thailand as the 4th seed. Chinese Taipei, Singapore and Malaysia are the 5th, 6th and 7th seeds respectively.
Asia’s other premier Under 20 side, Japan, has been given direct entry to the IRB’s Junior World Rugby Trophy 2010 by virtue of their participation in the Junior World Championships, which were hosted in Japan earlier this year.
The field for next year’s Junior World Championships has been cut from 16 to 12 teams so Japan must win the Junior World Rugby Trophy 2010 outright to earn automatic promotion to the Junior World Championships. If they fail to win, Japan will have to compete alongside the other Division I Asian Teams for the chance of promotion to the Junior World Rugby Trophy in 2011.
Hong Kong’s opening competition in the Olympus Capital Asian Rugby Junior Championship is against the seventh seeded Malaysian team on September 5 at 16.40pm. Other Round 1 match-ups on September 5th include Thailand versus Chinese Taipei (kick-off at 13.30) and Sri Lanka versus Singapore (kick-off at 15.05).
The 24-man Hong Kong squad has been in training thrice weekly for two months and has played two warm-up matches to date against the Hong Kong Tertiary XV and last Sunday (August 30) against the touring Thailand Navy team, Thailand’s senior rugby domestic champions. The Under 20s won both matches including a 45-0 rout of the Thai Navy.
The team is being captained by experienced centre Ed Rolston of Valley RFC. Ed made his debut at the Hong Kong Sevens in 2009 and was also capped in Hong Kong’s senior XV for the Asian Five Nations 2009.