Fresh from Japan’s history-making World Cup campaign, Leigh Jones ready to lead Hong Kong in Asian championship
Head coach is preparing his side for their opening fixture against Japan this weekend
Another Asia Rugby Championship has begun with Japan picking up where they left off last November after their most successful Rugby World Cup under the directorship of Eddie Jones and Hong Kong’s recently returned head coach Leigh Jones.
The 85-0 scoreline against South Korea on the opening weekend was a big surprise to everyone involved with Hong Kong.
Japan, arguably selecting a “B” team fielding 17 new caps with front-line players committed to Super Rugby with the newly formed Sunwolves and other franchises in New Zealand and Australia, came flying out of the blocks.
That result has provided increased focus for Jones as he prepares his team for their opening fixture at Hong Kong Football Club on Saturday.
Former Hong Kong – and now South Korea – head coach John Walters seemed a little annoyed and frustrated with his new team’s performance.
And while it is early days for the new coaching team in Korea, I am sure Jones will have Hong Kong well prepared for a backlash when we travel to Incheon in two weeks.
Having returned to Hong Kong following Japan’s outstanding World Cup campaign, Jones has added a new dimension to the newly formed full-time elite rugby programme and his first national squad selection.
It is early days still for the full-time programme, but ARC 2016 will provide an early indication of its development and potential impact on the international stage.
With Eddie Jones having presented England with the Six Nations grand slam on his first attempt, expectations are high within the Hong Kong rugby community that his namesake can orchestrate Hong Kong’s first Asia Rugby Championship victory over Japan since the competition’s inception in 2008.
In contrast, Hong Kong women’s head coach, Jo Hull, has no prior knowledge of the Japan team for the opening game of the Women’s Asia Rugby Championship.
Saturday’s testwill be the first for Hull on home ground after her first games in charge in Spain last December.
Because of the late withdrawal of Kazakhstan, this year’s women’s championship will now be a head-to-head competition with home and away fixtures.
Having taken up the head coach role in August 2015, Hull has worked tirelessly with the squad, establishing new systems and structures as they build towards their World Cup qualifier in December.
As part of the new strategy, the squad travelled to Spain for their first ever international fixtures outside Asia.
I know Hull and her squad are ready to lay down a marker against the Japanese.