HKRU Premiership 2016-17

Kowloon fly half Jack Neville soaks up lessons from former England player Olly Barkley

The 24-year-old is one of the most promising talents in the Hong Kong Rugby Union Premiership and is looking to help his side to victory over HKCC on Saturday

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 December, 2016, 4:43pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 December, 2016, 11:01pm

As one of Hong Kong’s most promising young fly halves, it doesn’t get much better for Jack Neville than training and playing alongside former England international Olly Barkley.

After joining Kowloon this season in a player-coach role, Barkley started for the first time in his side’s win over Societe Generale Valley last weekend and Neville can already feel his game growing.

“He gave me a lot of direction and clear thoughts about where we are going with the game,” Neville said.

“It’s like having a coach on the field with you, his running commentary is good. Playing with him definitely helps my game.”

Neville joined the Hong Kong Rugby Union’s elite rugby programme in July and has spent the season soaking up as much as he can from Barkley.

“He’s been awesome for me as a young 10, I’m trying to learn as much from him as possible,” Neville said.

“Him being a fly half, inside centre it is good to get his insights and he has given me things to think about that I never really was originally in terms of how to break down defences, how to control a game.”

Kowloon coach James Scaysbrook can see Neville developing before his eyes and is confident having Barkley on the field will only accelerate that growth.

“It’s very good development for our backs,” he said.

“The biggest thing is the long-term development of the guys like Jack and Lewis [Warner] around him and how much they can benefit from his experience and his game management.

“I think we saw already at the weekend that Jack is getting better and better at that.

“I thought he had a really good game from that point of view in terms of game management. He is still only a young player and he is developing all the time.”

Neville, who played for Cardiff University and Darlington Mowden Park before moving to Hong Kong in 2014, becomes eligible to represent his adopted home in August 2017.

The initial idea on moving here was to pursue his career after studying economics and Neville was working for Ernst & Young before the programme came knocking.

“I came out to start a career and play rugby, but I didn’t think I’d be playing full-time rugby,” he said.

“When I qualify, hopefully I can put my best foot forward and try and get into the Hong Kong team and get a cap, that’s my goal at the moment.”

It was no coincidence that Barkley’s first full game – he came on for 15 minutes against Tigers before the international break – coincided with Kowloon’s best win of the season.

Kowloon takes on Herbert Smith Freehills HKCC on Saturday in another tough clash and Neville feels they can continue on where they left off.

“It’s the second season with Scays [Scaysbrook] and it’s slowly coming together,” he said.

A whole new world: former England international Olly Barkley joins Kowloon coaching staff for start of Hong Kong Premiership campaign

“We finished strong last season and we are getting to where we want to be. Confidence is high and hopefully we can get some more wins and finish higher in the league than in previous seasons.”

Other men’s matches see Valley take on Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers and Bloomberg HK Scottish look to continue their winning run against Natixis HKFC.

There is only one match in the KPMG Women’s Premiership, with Comvita City Sparkle taking on Valley.

Valley are missing six players on international duty ahead of next week’s Women’s Rugby World Cup qualifiers but coach James Elliot is confident his side can continue an unbeaten run that stretches back two-and-a-half seasons.

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“We only have 16 regular squad members to select from but we’re still confident about putting out a good team,’” Elliot said.

“It’ll be a challenge but it’s a good opportunity for some of our national league one players to get experience. They are ready to step up – they have the experience and knowledge – they just need playing time.”