'Watershed moment' awaits Jones' men

Sports | 10 Nov 2017

Coach Leigh Jones believes the Regal Hotels Cup of Nations is a watershed moment for Hong Kong as they take on Russia, Kenya and tournament newcomers Chile starting today.

The tournament, which runs until next Friday, takes on even greater significance for Jones and his men as they prepare for next year's qualifiers for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

"It's a good mix of teams and styles and an excellent opportunity for us to play against a wide range of competition that replicates a potential qualification process for the World Cup," said Jones.

"If we take ourselves seriously regarding our desire to qualify for the World Cup in 2019, then we have got to be able to go head to head with teams like Russia, Chile and Kenya - and win.

"We have talked a lot about it as a group and the players understand that in many ways this is another watershed moment in our development and we need to be bold enough to back ourselves," Jones added.

Hong Kong's first test will be against the twice defending champions Russia tonight at King's Park.

At No 20 in the world, Russia are the highest-ranked team in the round- robin competition. Hong Kong are currently ranked 22nd, followed by Kenya and Chile in 27th and 28th spots, respectively.

Jones has picked a squad for the opener based on the players' form for their clubs in the Old Mutual International Premiership. The home side got a boost with the return of Max Woodward and Cado Lee Ka-to, who have been released by their Japanese professional clubs for the November international Test window.

"We are ready for the competition," Jones said. "The players understand the significance of the games in the larger scheme of things and are keen to test their mettle against some stern opposition."

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