Hong Kong Rugby Union
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Touch and tag makes its mark in Hong Kong

Melanie Ho

In touch rugby, Fred Mok has an advantage. His small frame doesn't impose fear in his opponents in the contact game, but Mok counters that touch rugby allows him to make use of another skill - speed.

'Because I'm short in size, my asset is my speed. Touch rugby can let me use this,' said Mok, who will have a chance to put his skills to the test when he plays in today's Inter-Cities Touch Championship at King's Park. Mok, 24, is part of the mixed Hong Kong Development Team, one of 10 local teams participating in the event. The other teams come from Shanghai, Guangzhou, Singapore, Shenzhen, Seoul and Beijing. There will be both a men's and a mixed division.

Touch rugby has primarily been used as a training means for tackle rugby, but Marco Wong, of the Hong Kong Touch and Tag Association, said that over the past six years, touch has begun to develop in Hong Kong as a sport of its own. 'It's a very fast sport that requires speed and agility,' Wong said. He also said the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union had taken an interest in trying to grow the sport and perhaps one day would develop a national team. Though very much a recreational sport in Hong Kong, touch rugby has greater popularity in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. In January, the Federation of International Touch held a world championship in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Wong said the sport was social and appealed to a wide range of age groups.

'Some people get into touch rugby for fitness,' said Steve Kean, who plays for the Discovery Bay Pirates, one of the teams in the tournament. 'Most of the stuff is basic rugby skills and it is a way to keep in touch with rugby, [but] it's not necessarily as demanding as you get a lot more movement and action without the sheer physical impact.

'It's never been a mainstream sport relative to rugby union, but I think it's got a lot of potential.'