Hong Kong’s Ryan Meacham itching to hit the ground running on his 15s debut against Japan
Fresh from an exhilarating sevens bow, Kiwi aims to give Brave Blossoms plenty to think about when Hong Kong open Asian campaign on Saturday
With the exhilaration of his Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens debut behind him Valley wing Ryan Meacheam is itching to take the field ahead of his 15-a-side bow for Hong Kong.
After a dominant season out wide for HKRU Premiership league and Grand Championship winners Societe Generale Valley, Meacheam will add another dimension to a Hong Kong side who tackle Japan in the Asia Rugby Championship (ARC) at Hong Kong Football Club on Saturday.
This year’s Sevens was Meacheam’s first time in Hong Kong colours and the New Zealander is hoping to follow that impressive short-form performance with another strong showing at 15s.
“It’s my second home now and it will be good to chuck on the Hong Kong jersey for the second time after the Sevens,” he said.
“Being given the opportunity to start against Japan, who are a pretty talented team and well-respected world wide, is pretty special.”
The 31-year-old is expecting a finely tuned Brave Blossoms team to try and stretch Hong Kong with their expansive style of play, but is confident the home side have the tools to control the game.
Meacheam will be an important cog and is hoping to do his bit out wide to ensure Japan have plenty to think about.
“Hopefully, [I can offer] a bit of excitement on the outside there, and if I’m given the opportunity I can finish nicely,” he said.
There is added motivation for Meacheam ahead of Hong Kong’s regional championship opener, with a spot on the elite rugby programme a possibility if he performs.
“I just need to nail these few games when I get my opportunities and see what comes after that,” he said.
Hong Kong will take a newfound confidence into the clash with a Japan side that showed their depth by naming 17 new players ahead of their first up 85-0 romp over South Korea last weekend.
The second coming of Leigh Jones has had a vast impact on the squad, as has the improvements made under the programme.
“Leigh’s come back with a couple of new ideas,” captain Nick Hewson said.
“Obviously, he’s benefited from Eddie Jones and coaching at the sharp end of the game again. He’s really brought that to us and implemented some habits and new techniques into us.”
Hewson is just one of a number of players that has noticed distinct physical and mental gains since the start of the programme, something that has given the team a boost.
“We’ve got a confident group,” he said. “You can just visually see in the domestic competition that the guys that are in the programme were the better players.
“You can see it actually transferring from the stuff we’re doing in the gym, the stuff we’re doing in our sessions, into the games.”
All eyes will be on the work of Hong Kong’s tight five on Saturday, which Hewson says has improved dramatically in recent months.
However, it will take a complete team performance to topple Japan and Hewson believes the answer might be a simple one.
“One of the big keys to beating Japan is playing for 80 minutes,” he said.