Lessons learned from England ‘golden boy’ Maro Itoje to serve Tigers recruit Ben Featherstone well in Hong Kong
The 26-year-old prop played for Saracens in the Aviva A League and LV Cup and is confident his new side are heading in the right direction under coach Craig Stewart
Armed with valuable experience playing for powerhouses Saracens alongside the new “golden boy” of English rugby Maro Itoje, Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers recruit Ben Featherstone is ready to make his mark in Hong Kong.
It was somewhat by chance that Featherstone found himself fronting for Saracens in the Aviva A League and the Anglo-Welsh Cup – then the LV Cup – during the 2014-15 season.
It was while playing for Esher in the National League One competition that he received the call-up.
“They needed props for a game, I got put forward as a contact and then they just kept bringing me back,” Featherstone said.
“Maro Itoje, the new golden boy on the English rugby scene, was my captain for LV Cup and A League as well so I spent a lot of time with him.”
Powerful second-rower Itoje, 21, burst on to the scene during England’s successful Six Nations campaign this year.
Learning from the likes of Itoje and immersing himself in the ruthless winning culture of Saracens has ensured Featherstone, 26, will have plenty to offer the USRC Tigers this season.
“They won the LV Cup, the A League, the European Cup and the Premiership all in one year,” said Featherstone, who grew up in Southampton.
“All the trophies they possibly could have got, they won them that year. Anyone’s going to say it’s pretty much the pinnacle to be part of that, no matter what form that is in.”
Featherstone came to the USRC Tigers from English second division club Jersey as a result of a link between his coach at Jersey and Tigers’ mentor Craig Stewart.
Despite being only one game into his stint in Hong Kong, Featherstone has a good feeling about where the Tigers are heading.
“I like the motivation of the club,” he said.
“I think Craig has really recruited quite well and he has put a lot of emphasis into turning this club around on a penny. He really wants to get it going now.
“Most clubs I’ve been a part of have had these five-year plans – ‘Where do we want to be in five years?’ He’s just come and obviously just gone ‘I want to win now, let’s make it happen’.”
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After a first-up victory over Kowloon, USRC Tigers will have a much better idea of where they stand after this weekend’s clash with all-conquering Societe Generale Valley.
Stewart is aware his charges will have an enormous fight on their hands and knows how lucky he is to have someone of Featherstone’s stature at his disposal.
— HKRU (@HongKongRugby) September 24, 2016
“Big men like that are pretty valuable over here. He’s a great asset for us,” Stewart said.
“Valley have got a way in which they play that really works for them and they all understand it really well. It is our job to understand that and try to nullify it as best we can.”
In other second round action, Natixis HKFC face a Bloomberg HK Scottish side that gave Herbert Smith Freehills HKCC a run for their money last week, while HKCC take on Kowloon.