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High on Hong Kong: tier one nations come knocking as Peter Drewett lands plum Welsh gig

The union’s head of elite coach development takes up a role in the UK in another boost for the professionalism of the sport here

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 January, 2017, 6:35pm
UPDATED : Friday, 20 January, 2017, 6:51pm

While on the field Hong Kong still have a way to go to match it with the world’s best, there is no doubting that the HKRU could not be doing much more off the pitch to ensure the best possible environment for its players.

It is something that has not gone unnoticed across the globe, with some of the best teams looking to Hong Kong to fill positions.

The union’s standing in the world of rugby got a further boost this week with the appointment of Pete Drewett – the union’s head of elite coach development – to a position with the Welsh Rugby Union.

While Drewett was ready for a move closer to his home in England for family reasons, the fact he can walk straight into an integral role with a union like Wales speaks volumes of the set-up here.

Drewett will take up the role of performance coach manager in Wales as of March 1 and is the latest in a string of Hong Kong coaches to join unions at the very top of the game.

In December, former Hong Kong sevens boss Gareth Baber landed the job as coach of reigning Olympic and World Series champions Fiji.

Before him current Hong Kong 15s boss Leigh Jones was recruited by Japan to join their coaching panel in the lead-up to the 2015 World Cup, while former HKRU club coaching officer Joe Shawwent to English powerhouse Saracens.

Now Drewett is off to take up a key role at a tier one nation, just another reminder of how highly regarded the Hong Kong system is throughout the world.

The union insists this is nothing new and to a degree it isn’t, but it’s been a big few months and rugby here is picking up steam by the day.

“I think the world of rugby is looking at us. They can see the great work Dai [HKRU general manager of rugby performance Dai Rees] has done, the professional squad of people he has assembled around him and it’s great credit to Hong Kong that we are getting these jobs,” Drewett said.

“I think what Dai and the board of directors have created is a very professional environment and I think the players are receiving coaching that is as impressive as a tier one nation.”

Drewett will work closely with former Fiji coach Ben Ryan in Wales, who it was announced this week will work as a planning and preparation consultant of all Wales’ teams outside of Rob Howley’s 15s squad.

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Drewett, who has worked for the Rugby Football Union in England and coached premiership side Exeter Chiefs, is just one of a string of quality people appointed by the HKRU in recent years.

“Peter and Gareth both being recruited for major international posts in recent months demonstrate that Hong Kong is pushing new levels in our recruitment. The expertise of our people is now speaking for itself on the world stage,” Rees said.

“Over the last seven or eight years we have ensured we have recruited the best for the role and for Hong Kong.”

For this reason, Rees feels “Hong Kong is becoming a breeding ground, dare I say it, for people to be recycled back in to tier one nations”.

On top of this, the union is hopeful that it will also continue to work the other way, as it has done with the likes of former Scotland international Andy Hall and former English premiership star James Scaysbrook taking up roles in Hong Kong in recent years.

Big year of sevens ahead, but is a World Series berth the only way Hong Kong can show progress?

Baber’s signing by Fiji was a shock and an indication that Hong Kong is held in as high a regard as anyone in the sevens world.

The naming of his permanent replacement later this month looms as the first example of just what calibre of coach the HKRU are now able to lure back the other way.

Whoever gets the job, they won’t be the first highly qualified person to take up a role here, but if Hong Kong land a big, big name, it will be yet another indication of their increasing standing in the rugby world.