THE dream of a place at rugby's most prestigious event is just 80 minutes from potential reality this weekend for a Dunfermline-born star.

Gregor McNeish, formerly of Dunfermline Rugby Club, is one game away from reaching next year's Rugby World Cup in France with Hong Kong, who will face Tonga on Saturday for the right to qualify.

Dunfermline Press:

Photo: Hong Kong Rugby Union Facebook.

A place in the Asia/Pacific play-off, which will be played at the Sunshine Coast Stadium in Queensland, Australia, was secured thanks to a nail-biting 23-21 win over South Korea in the Asia Rugby Championship (ARC) final.

That match saw McNeish, who is eligible to represent Hong Kong under residency rules, having moved there in 2016, come on as a second-half substitute and set up a try for Nathan De-Thierry, before kicking over the vital, match-winning points with a penalty in the final minute of the contest.

Victory in the ARC secured Hong Kong's place in the one-off match with the Pacific-Islanders, where the reward for the winners will be a place in Pool B alongside reigning world champions South Africa; Scotland, Ireland, who completed an historic series win in New Zealand against the All Blacks at the weekend; and Romania.

Tonga, who are bidding to reach their ninth World Cup, will provide a stern test for McNeish and his team-mates, and could call upon the likes of former Australia international Israel Folau and ex-New Zealand pair Charles Piutau and Malakai Fekitoa, who have been included in the squad following rule changes on eligibility introduced by World Rugby last year.

Watching Gregor, a qualified PE teacher who combines his day job with playing for Hong Kong Scottish Rugby Club, from home in West Fife will be his proud dad, Terry, who noted: "It is certainly going to be a big ask, given that there's now been a recent rule change which allows players who haven't played for their adopted country for a period of three years to go back to their own country (and play).

"Tonga's going to be very strong and it's going to be a big ask, but they're up for it.

"They will do their homework beforehand. There is a very professional set-up supporting the Hong Kong squad so they will do everything they can, and come up with a gameplan."

However, even if McNeish, a three-times Scotland club XV cap, and his team-mates with the 'Dragons' lose out to Tonga, they will still have another shot at reaching the showpiece tournament, which begins in September and finishes in late October.

The loser of the play-off would then go into November's Final Qualification Tournament, where they would compete against three other nations in a 'round-robin' format for a place in Pool C, alongside Australia, Wales, Fiji and Georgia.