Warriors a ‘real boost’ to HKRU’s push for more local players, says Fan Shun-kei
Senior squad coach expects word of representative opportunities to ‘reverberate in the community’
The Hong Kong Warriors debut tour to the Philippines will attract more local players to the game, senior squad coach Fan Shun-kei said Wednesday.
The Hong Kong Rugby Union’s newest representative sides – the Hong Kong Warriors juniors and seniors – battled bravely in their first overseas internationals matches in Manila last week.
And despite a mixed bag of results against development teams from the Philippines Rugby Football Union the tour ticked all the boxes for the union, and for Fan.
“The Warriors will be a real boost to the numbers of locals playing rugby with the opportunities these players now have,” said Fan.
“The culture on tour was really good. There was a lot of dynamic exchange and understanding across the programme and I think this message will reverberate in the community,” Fan said of the development pathway now available to youngsters hoping to graduate to Premiership and senior representative rugby.
Fan’s senior Warriors lost their first tour game 17-5 to a PRFU Development XV but rebounded strongly to claim a 13-0 shut-out victory against the same side on Saturday.
The juniors found themselves on the losing end of 53-0 and 49-0 scores against PRFU U19s teams.
But player development, not match results, was always the stated aim of the HKRU’s performance chief Dai Rees.
“The primary objective is to show local players the opportunities available through rugby and to help develop their skills to advance them further along Hong Kong’s rugby ladder,” Rees said ahead of the tour.
And Fan, who represented Hong Kong at 15s and sevens and is the current head coach of the reigning Asian U20 sevens champions from the city, said that key objective was achieved.
“We identified a group of primarily local players with potential and then had the opportunity to analyse them in a highly competitive match environment,” he said.
“That helped us identify players who we can now spend more time to help them develop their skills and reach the next level.”
The next steps for the senior Warriors, as the HKRU partners with Hong Kong’s club coaches, include a performance review reinforced by continued work to enhance the players’ skills and address any deficiencies.
HONG KONG WARRIORS MANILA TOUR RESULTS
|15/12/15||13:00||Philippines U19s||53-0||Hong Kong||JNRS|
|15/12/15||15:30||Philippines Dev XV||17-5||Hong Kong||SNRS|
|19/12/15||13:00||Philippines U19s||49-0||Hong Kong||JNRS|
|19/12/15||15:00||Philippines Dev XV||0-13||Hong Kong||SNRS|
The junior side played with commitment and heart in Manila but were physically out-matched by the PRFU U19s.
Fung Kai-hang, HKRU manager of the Warriors development programme, aims to solve this for future tours and home matches by adding a healthy dose of strength and conditioning work to the younger group of players’ regimen.
“It was the first time representing Hong Kong for most of the players in both squads, and for many it was their first experience of an overseas tour,” said Fung.
“We were able to introduce them to a performance rugby environment and also play in some highly competitive games on tour, which is crucial to accelerate their development.
“They [the juniors] didn’t have much experience and I think they were a bit nervous, but they learned a lot in a very short time. The squad really came along quickly … as a team and as individuals on and off the pitch – particularly their communication and leadership skills,” Fung added.
Seven junior players have this week been selected to join the HKRU’s “impact programme” with the aim of developing ball skills, game knowledge, strength and stamina. Impact players attend weekly gym sessions and individual skills sessions on top of national age-grade and club training.
In keeping with the development rationale of the Hong Kong Warriors programme, Fung said the HKRU has made it a priority to provide similar competitive opportunities for the squads – starting with an incoming tour in spring 2016.