Ben Roberts thriving on ‘shock’ captaincy as Hong Kong look to whitewash South Korea
The 29-year-old is enjoying the role as his side look to end the Asia Rugby Championship on a high at Hong Kong Football Club on Saturday
After overcoming the initial shock of being thrust into the role after only two matches, hooker Ben Roberts is embracing the responsibility that comes with captaining Hong Kong.
The 29-year-old will get another chance to impress when Hong Kong host South Korea on Saturday, with the home side needing a win to lock away second spot in the Asia Rugby Championship.
While initially given the role in partnership with Jamie Tsang, Roberts has had the job to himself for the past two games due to an injury to his fellow forward.
“It was a little bit of a shock,” Roberts said. “It was strange being captain after just a few caps but I’m one of the older guys in the dressing room.
“It’s a privilege and an honour to captain your country and I’ve really enjoyed it.”
Roberts, who has experience in leading his club side Hong Kong Cricket Club, admits it has been a good time to step into the role with Hong Kong putting in two competitive performances against Japan before brushing aside South Korea 43-17 last week.
“I would imagine there has been a lot tougher times to be captain,” said Roberts, who made his debut for Hong Kong against Zimbabwe in last year’s Cup of Nations. “We’ve played reasonably well and we have achieved some of our targets.”
In a rarity for Hong Kong rugby, coach Leigh Jones has named an unchanged starting 15 for Saturday’s encounter, while on the bench Rohan Cook and Dan Falvey replace Angus Dixon and Robbie Keith.
“We are expecting a bit of a rebellion from South Korea,” Roberts said. “They have made some changes to their team and knowing Korea and their attitude and pride, they’re going to be wounded and come fighting back.”
While Roberts is expecting an improved performance from South Korea, he is confident “more of the same” from his side will see them again reign supreme.
“We need to run, run, run and run some more,” he said. “We spoke this week about being relentless and we feel that our fitness probably paid off against the Koreans last week.
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“It’s hot and humid and the Koreans probably won’t be as used to this environment as we are.”
Later on Saturday, Hong Kong’s women take on Spain in a test match in Valladolid as their preparation for the Women’s Rugby World Cup in August goes up a notch.
Hong Kong will enter the clash with some confidence after taking it to Spain in a warm-up match on Tuesday, with their 19-8 loss far improved from the 59-12 and 57-0 hidings they copped when last in the country 18 months ago.
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“The first match was an eye-opener for both teams,” Hong Kong coach Jo Hull said. “Spain will make some changes and I expect to see more of their senior players on Saturday.
“Yes, we have made progress since 2015, but now there is a risk that we sit back and are content with that. We know that we are not good enough for the World Cup right now and I am interested to see how the squad responds to that in the test.”