RWC hopes still have life

Thursday June 14, 2018 Written by Published in Rugby Union
Hong Kong will take on the Cook Islands in a home-and-away Asia/Oceania play-off for the Rugby World Cup, starting later this month. 18061319 Hong Kong will take on the Cook Islands in a home-and-away Asia/Oceania play-off for the Rugby World Cup, starting later this month. 18061319

Hong Kong had double cause to celebrate on Saturday after their 39-5 victory over Korea not only gave them a first-ever Asia Rugby Championship title, but also kept their hopes of qualifying for Rugby World Cup 2019 alive.

As Asian champions, Hong Kong now progress to a home-and-away Asia/Oceania play-off with the Cook Islands for the right to enter the four-team global repechage tournament in November.

Hong Kong will travel to the Cook Islands for the first leg on June 30 before the return leg on July 7, with the winner on aggregate to join the already-confirmed Canada in the repechage.

“I am ecstatic, the boys really put in there. We started fast and the Koreans couldn’t keep up with us,” said Hong Kong captain James Cunningham, whose side went through the Top 3 competition unbeaten.

“It is great to move on - we scored some great tries and did exactly what we needed to do.

“It feels unreal, it is a historic moment today for Hong Kong to win their first Asia Rugby Championship, and to go on to face the Cook Islands now is great. We have done something special today and are all looking forward to the next trip.”

Cook Islands coach Stan Wright earlier this month released the preliminary squad of 24 overseas-based players who will compete with a dozen locals for a spot in the national team.

Former Kukis rugby league international Tyrone Viiga and ex-New Zealand Under 20s lock Shahn Eru are both playing professionally in France and have put their hand up for selection.

Otago captain and former Highlanders hooker Sam Anderson-Heather is in line to make his test debut, while Grenoble number eight Stephen Setephano remains a chance to add to his one test cap if he recovers from injury in time.

            - RWC/Radio New Zealand

Overseas-based Cook Islands players:

Alex Casey (Brisbane), AJ Cambell (Brisbane), Alex Matapo (Auckland), James Pakoti (Wellington), Sam Anderson Heather (Otago), Matt Mullany (Wellington), Oneal Rongo (Northland), Shahn Eru (France), Tai Marsters (Counties), Tyrone Viiga (France), Eruu Wano (Bay of Plenty), Tai Ford (Brisbane), Teara Henderson (Wellington), Corry Tearoa (Perth), Walter Koteka (Perth), Will Raea (Counties), Reece Joyce (Counties), Josh Gordon (Otago), Gene Te Amo (Counties), Josh Tinomana (Perth), Brynn Uriarau (Hawkes Bay), Oisin Clarken (Melbourne), Justin Marsters (Sydney), Greg Mullany (Wellington)

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