HKRU Premiership 2016-17

Lacrosse stint in England fuels fire for Hong Kong Sevens hopeful Charlie Higson-Smith

The 25-year-old says Football Club are serious contenders in HK Premiership grand championship race ahead of Saturday’s clash with Kowloon

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 February, 2017, 12:48pm
UPDATED : Friday, 10 February, 2017, 11:10pm

While he admits the skills don’t really transfer to rugby, Hong Kong Sevens hopeful Charlie Higson-Smith takes plenty of positives out of his time playing lacrosse at university in England.

The 25-year-old got his first taste of competitive seven-man rugby on Hong Kong’s recent trip to Fiji, the latest instalment in what has been a big few years for the big-bodied back.

“Playing lacrosse probably didn’t help my rugby much, but there was a gym programme that helped my strength and conditioning,” Higson-Smith said.

“To be honest, it helped me in a way because I came back after not playing rugby for four years really hungry to do well.”

Higson-Smith returned to Hong Kong at the age of 22 and quickly worked his way into the Natixis HKFC senior side.

Soon after, he was “flung from club rugby straight into it”, making his Hong Kong 15s debut in the 2015 Asia Rugby Championship.

His entry into the sevens set-up was equally as hasty, with Higson-Smith only given two days notice that he was heading to Fiji.

“I had never actually played a competitive sevens game before,” he said.

“It was a bit of an eye opener. Two days before the end of the Christmas holidays the coach gave me a tap on the shoulder and said ‘Fancy coming and training with us next week?’.”

Brought into the sevens squad due to his size and pace, Higson-Smith has plenty to learn but hopes his 15-a-side experience will help him develop.

“Playing on the wing in 15s will help me, having that ability to try and beat one man at a time,” he said.

“I have had to learn a couple of new things as I am playing a mixture of the forwards and the backs in the sevens.

Winger Charlie Higson-Smith set to debut for Hong Kong against South Korea

“We played a training game against the Fijian boys and my neck was pretty sore the next day after scrummaging against them.”

A spot in the squad for the Borneo Sevens in March is the next goal for Higson-Smith, while he says the prospect of lining up in Hong Kong in April is “ridiculous”.

“I have been here since I was one so I have been to something like 15 Hong Kong Sevens,” he said.

“I grew up thinking they were the be all and end all. As a little kid I was always a very small fella and I never thought I would have the chance to play professional rugby.”

First though, Higson-Smith has a job to do for HKFC in the Hong Kong Premiership, with his side taking on Kowloon on Saturday.

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While there is an outside chance HKFC could pinch a top-two spot, they are more likely to finish third or fourth.

“I think we are coming good in time for finals,” Higson-Smith said. “[Fly half] Nate [de Thierry] has been a massive help to us coming in halfway through the season.

“He’s pulling the strings and then our two centres Tommy [Isaacs] and Ben [Axten-Burrett] both have good experience behind them. I think we will be serious contenders to be honest.”

Higson-Smith feels Bloomberg HK Scottish will be the team to beat come finals time and their clash with Societe Generale Valley this weekend will go along way to deciding who takes out the league championship.

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The final match of the round could well decide who finishes the minor round in last place, with Herbert Smith Freehills HKCC taking on Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers.

In the KPMG Women’s Premiership, HKFC face Kowloon, SCAA First Pacific CWB Phoenix play Tigers and Valley locks horns with CPM Gai Wu Falcons.