HKRU Premiership 2016-17

YouTube videos and late nights watching brother Olly play for Exeter all part of HK experience for Tiger Alex Woodburn

The 23-year-old is thriving on the city’s warmer weather and the different style of rugby on offer here

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 February, 2017, 11:30am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 February, 2017, 10:25pm

Alex Woodburn is loving Hong Kong so much he’s started a YouTube channel, although the time difference makes it hard to follow his brother Olly’s exploits for the Exeter Chiefs in the English Premiership.

In his first season with the Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers, the flanker is thriving on a different style of rugby in warmer conditions to what he is used to in the UK.

“Sometimes Olly’s games are on quite early in the morning, but I watched him play against Wasps [last weekend] and he scored a good try,” Woodburn said.

“It’s nice to see him going well and he has just signed another two-year deal with Exeter.”

Woodburn has also had his own brush with professional rugby, spending a year with Premiership side Gloucester.

Watch: Alex Woodburn moves to Hong Kong

But while the 23-year-old played in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, he never played a Premiership game.

“I had a lot of injuries at Gloucester that held me back,” Woodburn said.

“A week into signing my professional contract I ruptured my Achilles tendon and was out for the whole season.”

When he’s not playing for Tigers or working as a personal trainer, Woodburn is busy creating content for his AdventuresForAlex YouTube channel.

“It lets me show people what Hong Kong is like from the perspective of an expat and that it’s not just big buildings, there’s a lot more to it,” he said.

Woodburn, who went to university with Tigers teammate Ben Featherstone in Hartpury, spent last season playing semi-professionally for Coventry in the third-tier national league one.

After slogging it out around the country, he was ready for a change.

“National one is a very long season and you are often playing in horrible conditions,” he said.

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“It was not the sort of rugby I wanted to play – forward oriented, big ball carriers, a slow game. I wanted to get somewhere where I could play a different game of rugby, play in warm conditions and try something new.”

Woodburn doesn’t rule out another crack at making it professionally after a freshen up in Hong Kong, but knows only too well the challenges involved.

“It takes a lot out of you mentally, being up there and getting injured, having to rehabilitate yourself,” he said.

“You kind of have to be physically fit for a long period of time before you start to see the financial gains. I’d definitely consider it, it’s just how I’d go about that.”

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Tigers take on Natixis HKFC this weekend and will be looking to build some momentum ahead of the start of the finals next week.

While they are sitting bottom of the Hong Kong Premiership, Woodburn feels Tigers are looming as something of a dark horse.

“Tigers are one of the teams that everyone should fear,” he said. “We are bottom of the table and we have nothing to lose. In reality we have some of the most talented players in the league.”

Societe Generale Valley are effectively assured of the league championship due to a five-point lead on top of the table and a significant points difference advantage over Bloomberg HK Scottish.

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They take on Herbert Smith Freehills HKCC, while the winner of the Scottish and Kowloon clash will finish second and take the spoils of a week off and a home semi-final.

In the KPMG Women’s Premiership, Valley take on CMP Gai Wu Falcons, SCAA First Pacific CWB Phoenix play Comvita City Sparkle and HKFC tackle Tigers.