Hong Kong and Korea vie for second place in A5N
May 23, 2008

The elite Top 5 competition of the HSBC Asian Five Nations Series is set for an exciting conclusion this weekend with matches in Hong Kong and Kazakhstan.

Hong Kong will fight it out for second place versus Korea while Kazakhstan host the Arabian Gulf in the deciding contest to determine who will be relegated the to HSBC Asian Five Nations Division II Tournament in 2009.

Hong Kong will field an unchanged starting line-up for their final game in the HSBC Asian Five Nations against South Korea at King's Park on Saturday (kick off at 4.00pm) in the final week of the inaugural competition.

Hong Kong head coach John Walters has stuck to the same team that started against Japan last Sunday in Niigata, an indication that he is pleased with their performance despite the 75-29 defeat to the champions.

"We are confident and can't wait to take on Korea. The guys are all looking forward to the game," Walters said. "Our aim obviously is to grab second place in the tournament."

Week Five of the competition promises to be mouth-watering. While Hong Kong battle for second place against a tough Korean outfit, the Arabian Gulf will travel to Kazakhstan for a crucial encounter with the losers relegated to Division One next year.

Hong Kong, led by fit-again No.8 Semi Iafeta, will have twin tasks in mind when they come up against Korea - to keep alive a record of not having lost at home for the past year and to prove that their win over the same opponents last year was no fluke.

"We want to show everyone that that victory was no fluke. And of course finishing second will be fabulous as it will seal our status as the number two team in Asia," said captain Iafeta.

Having recovered from a hamstring injury that kept him out of the opening two games against the Arabian Gulf (which Hong Kong won 20-12) and Kazakhstan (also won by Hong Kong, 23-17), the bustling Iafeta will combine in a powerful back-row which also includes hard-working flankers Nigel Clarke and Kris Marin.

Nick Hurrell retains his place in the second row alongside Lawrence Denvir while the front row of props Nigel Hobler and Pete Spizzirri and, hooker Wayne Whitney stays the same for the fifth game in succession. A lot will depend on how the tight five perform against the Korean scrum which is one of the best in Asia and gave Japan significant headaches in the tournament opener against Japan in the opener.

Jon Elliot and Justin Temara will once again be the halves combination while vice-captain Colin Bisley will pair off with the impressive Simon Hempel in mid-field. The back three comprise wingers Andrew Wong Kee and Simon Smith with hat-trick hero against Japan, Rowan Varty, at fullback. The only change in the squad is the return of Jason Going on the bench, replacing Alex McQueen.

"The target every week has been to improve on the previous performance. If we focus on that, winning will follow," Walters said. "We were physical against Japan and competed well. Our fitness was good, now we have to go one step better."

In the second match in Kazakhstan, the rapidly improving home side hosts the Arabian Gulf in the promotion / relegation battle to see which team will stay up in the HSBC Asian Five Nations Top 5 competition in 2009.

Despite an intensive three test matches in four weeks, the Arabian Gulf side has is lining up its strongest XV yet with the possible return of centre Marcus Smith and James Tometzki after fitness worries. Smith has missed the last two tests for the Arabian Gulf while Tometzki gets the nod after a speedier than expected recovery from knee surgery. Tometzki has had limited club play this season but has trained strongly with the squad over recent weeks and adds an exciting attacking option to go with his reliable goal kicking. The forward pack that competed so well against Korea also remains intact. ??

Hong Kong is currently ranked 28th in the IRB world rankings, five places behind Korea. A win on Saturday will go a long way to reducing this gap, but more importantly it will cement Hong Kong's standing as the second-best team in Asia behind Japan, the inaugural champions of the HSBC Asian Five Nations. Kazakhstan are ranked 35th in the world, while the Gulf rank 51st.

Team Line ups:
Hong Kong - Pete Spizzirri, Wayne Whitney, Nigel Hobler, Lawrence Denvir, Nick Hurrell, Nigel Clarke, Kris Marin, Semi Iafeta (captain), Jon Elliott, Justin Temara, Andrew Wong Kee, Simon Hempel, Colin Bisley, Simon Smith, Rowan Varty. Subs: Jon Abel, Alex Ng Wai-shing, Ivan Zenovic, Simon Leung, Kenzo Panell, Mark Wright, Jason Going.

Korea - Kim Kwang Mo (captain), Kim Tae Hyung, Heo Woong, Jeong Dae Ik, Kim Young Nam, Youn Kwon Woo, Park Seon Kyu, You Young Nam, Park Wan Yong, Hong Jun Ki, Yoo Chul Kyu, Park Noh Hoon, Kim Sung Soo, Kim Hyun Woo, Chae Jae Young, Mun Sang Yong, Jeong Gyeong Won, Lee Hyun Woo, Lee Ki Don, Oh Youn Hyung, Yoo Min Hyung, Kim Jeong Min, Yoon Tae IL

Kazakhstan - Not yet named.

Arabian Gulf - Mike Riley, Fain Ferguson,?Mike McKnight, Mark Gathercole, Vivian Albertyn, Diarmuid O'Malley - Captain, Steve Huber,?Rory Power, Karl Sutcliffe,?Ed Nicholas, Dave Clark, Sean Hurley, Paul Beard, Ayman Razek Stephen Cooper - Vice Captain,?Jo Czerpak,?Francois Coetzer,?Stuart Gibb, Pending Fitness Tests:?James Tometzki, Jonathon Brookes, Mark Simon, Marcus Smith Stand-By: Wayne Esselmont

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