HKRU Premiership 2016-17

Super Rugby’s Chiefs to the rescue as union looks to boost Hong Kong Premiership

Five players from the club’s development squad will play out the season in the local league in a big to strengthen competition

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 November, 2016, 5:17pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 November, 2016, 7:54pm

The Hong Kong Rugby Union’s partnership with Super Rugby side the Chiefs will go to another level on Saturday, with five members of the club’s development squad to step out in the Premiership.

The quintuplet have come to Hong Kong on a trail basis until the end of the season and will be spread across four clubs in a bid to raise the standard of the competition.

Bloomberg HK Scottish is set to benefit the most, with lock Lars Morrice and flanker Josh Dowsing joining the club and starting on the bench against USRC Borrelli Walsh Tigers this weekend.

“By the sounds of it they have been playing some pretty good rugby in New Zealand and they have been brought in with the idea of bringing up the standard,” Scottish coach Craig Hammond said.

“For us, it’s a good bonus, we get good rugby players out of it and it strengthens the whole club scene.

“It adds a bit more pressure in terms of positions and I figure it is only going to crank the level up.

“It’s good for Hong Kong rugby.”

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Of the other players, number eight Turoa Stephens will play for Kowloon, fly half Nathan De Thierry for Natixis HKFC and centre Joseph Ikenasio for Tigers.

Ultimately, it is hoped the move will boost Hong Kong’s World Cup qualification hopes, with the Chiefs players selected to strengthen certain weaknesses in Premiership teams.

“We have worked closely with the Premiership clubs to identify existing needs in the league competition and also conferred with the Chiefs to ensure that we are bringing in momentum players to help us achieve our long-term goals,” said Dai Rees, general manager of rugby performance at the Hong Kong Rugby Union.

Hammond is also confident Hong Kong coach Leigh Jones’ call for all national players to perform consistently at domestic level will ensure an increase in intensity in the local league.

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Jones made it clear in the lead up to Hong Kong’s Cup of Nations game against Russia last weekend that only those who perform consistently for their clubs will be considered for higher honours.

“It’s going to be exciting times ahead,” said Hammond, who is also an assistant to Jones.

“Leigh has made it pretty clear that if you are not going back to your club team and performing and showing that you are a professional player then you are going to miss out.

“Hopefully it’s going to push everyone on, but again it is going to make competition even tougher so it is going to be an interesting few months.”

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Hammond’s Scottish are one of the form teams in the competition and play at home on Saturday against Tigers in the first Premiership match to be streamed live on Rugby Pass.

Just three points behind league leaders Societe Generale Valley, Hammond knows his side is well placed if they can continue their form.

“Trying to keep that momentum going over these little breaks is pretty crucial, we had a good run coming into that November test series window, we have just got to carry on now,” Hammond said.

The other game sees Valley look to continue on their merry way against Kowloon, while HKFC and Herbert Smith Freehills HKCC has been postponed due to HKCC having issues with front-row availability.

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The KPMG Women’s Premiership also resumes after a one-week spell in which the national side played two friendlies against Kazakhstan, winning both as they prepare for Women’s World Cup qualifiers in December.

Valley, top of the table on points difference from CPM Gai Wu Falcons, take on First Pacific CWB Phoenix, Gai Wu meet Kowloon and Comvita City Sparkle look to post their first win of the season against Tigers.