First-time Hong Kong captain Ed Rolston ready to write his own script after rugby intermission
The 26-year-old’s journey features a national debut at just 17, a stint at English Premiership club Leicester and a drama degree
Ed Rolston – actor, writer, rugby player.
It’s not your typical resume and Rolston will add Hong Kong captain to that list when he leads the side for the first time against Papua New Guinea in the Cup of Nations on Friday.
It will be another milestone in a journey that has been anything but ordinary.
He represented Hong Kong at 17, went on to play in the Anglo-Welsh Cup for English Premiership club Leicester and then took a three-and-a-half year break from the sport.
“I did a drama degree at university,” Rolston said. “When I didn’t get re-signed by Leicester I moved to Los Angeles and played for a club, the Santa Monica Dolphins, and then lived in London as an actor and a writer for two years.”
While for a time there was a chance Rolston, who grew up in Hong Kong, was lost to the sport of rugby, in the end his hiatus only enhanced his love for the game.
“When I was playing in the UK, I threw everything at playing professional rugby,” he said.
“I was at Leicester for a couple of seasons and it got pretty tough when you train every single day and you get one first team cap in two years.
Papua New Guinea’s addition to Cup of Nations can make ‘players more rounded’, says Hong Kong’s Leigh Jones
“You realise that maybe rugby isn’t everything in life and you decide to pursue other avenues and the break I think was ultimately a good thing for me.
“I came back three-and-a-half years later with a fresh energy.”
It was his job that brought Rolston back to Hong Kong, with his local knowledge landing him a role producing an extreme sports documentary.
“I moved back to Hong Kong, we shot a documentary over here, I kept getting work and then decided to pull the boots on again and here I am,” Rolston said.
“I have found myself in a professional contract and captaining Hong Kong against Papua New Guinea on Friday.
“It has been a bit of a surreal experience coming back to rugby and then being captain for Hong Kong within a year, but it’s been fun and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”
Rolston is confident he will maintain his attacking flair despite the added responsibility that comes with the captaincy, and knows the likes of squad captain Nick Hewson will be there to lean on when needed.
He is excited about how Hong Kong is placed ahead of Cup of Nations matches against PNG, Zimbabwe and Russia.
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“In terms of strength and condition, we had a bit of a breakdown of how we have improved conditioning-wise across the board and we set targets from last year and it is great to see the incremental increases in terms of strength and conditioning,” he said.
“The results are better than they have ever been for Hong Kong. I think we are in a very good position and hopefully we have improved quicker than everyone else.”
As for PNG, Rolston is not afraid to admit they are an unknown quantity: “There is relatively little we know about them but we are taking nothing for granted. We presume they are going to play quite an unstructured game of rugby. They’re going to be running it from everywhere, they’re athletic by the looks of them.”
The squad to play PNG features five new faces as coach Leigh Jones takes the opportunity to experiment against the 69th-ranked side.
Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers second rowers Calvin Hunter and Will Eversfield and Natixis HKFC flanker Mat Lamont are in the starting 15, while recent sevens debutant Jason Jeyam and Valley youngster JW Markley are on the bench.
“We want to see how good some of these youngsters are, therefore we have to give them an opportunity,” Jones said.
“I think this guy (Jeyam) is special, both for the sevens code and the 15s code.
“I think he is a name we need to watch. I’ve been in the game a long time and he is probably as good a scrum half as I have worked with. He is showing some real potential.
“Will’s a Hong Kong-born lad who has very much earned his shot and I’m hoping he’ll bring some good energy.
“I’ve been impressed by him in the first round of games, he’s had some really good performances.”
Hong Kong squad
Ed Rolston (c), Ben Higgins, Jamie Tsang, Rohan Cook, Calvin Hunter, Will Eversfield, Mat Lamont, Matt Lamming, Dan Falvey, Cado Lee Ka-to, Matt Rosslee, Salom Yiu Kam-shing, Lex Kaleca, Tyler Spitz, Charles Higson-Smith, Adam Fullgrabe, JW Markley, Alex Ng Wai-shing, Adrian Griffiths, James Cunningham, Jason Jeyam, Ben Rimene, Ally Maclay.