Racing 92 debut in reach for Hong Kong young gun Matt Worley as World Rugby U20 Trophy kicks off
The 19-year-old gets his first taste of the top flight in pre-season matches against Bayonne and Toulouse
Fresh off his first taste of top flight rugby with French Top 14 club Racing 92, Matt Worley is itching to don the Hong Kong colours again at the World Rugby U20 Trophy in Uruguay.
Hong Kong kick off their campaign against Fiji early on Wednesday morning (Hong Kong time) and 19-year-old Worley is buzzing after featuring for Racing in pre-season matches against Bayonne and Toulouse.
“For my first experience at that level, it was incredible. The level of intensity and physicality, the speed, everything was just unbelievable and I’m hungry for more,” Worley said.
“It’s given me the will to keep playing and try to get to that level. It was something to be able to run out with players that when I was growing up I was like ‘wow, they are they are the best in the world’. Now I have an opportunity to play with them, it was something so surreal.”
After initially heading to Racing on a trial in 2015, Worley is in his second season at the club’s academy and has surprised even himself with the progress he has made in such a short time.
“I couldn’t have actually imagined myself in the position I am, I wouldn’t have thought I’d be where I am at the moment,” he said. “It has gone extremely well.”
Rubbing shoulders with the likes of former All Blacks Dan Carter, Joe Rokocoko and Anthony Tuitavake has been a dream come true for Worley and the scrum half turned full back – the language barrier made it difficult for him to fulfil his duties at nine – hopes his Top 14 debut is not too far away.
“All it would take would be an injury or two and I could be asked to come in and help out, so I think my chances are quite good,” he said.
“But hopefully I can use performance rather than injury. I think everyone’s chances are as good as they play and as good as they make it.”
Worley will be a key component of a Hong Kong side looking to improve on last year’s seventh-placed finish at the under-20 trophy, a competition featuring the top eight second-tier junior teams.
Hong Kong landed their first ever win at the tournament over Zimbabwe last year and Worley is confident the side – coached by Andy Hall – can make more ground in Montevideo.
“I hope we can take what we did in the last tournament and all the training the boys that have been involved in the junior programmes at [the Technological and Higher Education Institute of Hong Kong] and with the sevens squad [have been doing] and we can all bring together what we have learnt in our different areas and improve on previous results,” he said.
— HKRU (@HongKongRugby) August 26, 2017
It will be the last time stepping out in the under 20s for Worley but he hopes to feature at senior level for Hong Kong.
“I have played quite a bit with the under 20s and it is going to be quite sad as this is my last tournament, but there is no better place to end it than in a completely new environment halfway across the world,” said Worley, who is playing in his second under-20 trophy.
Hong Kong withstand Zimbabwe fight-back to secure first-ever World U20s success and take seventh place
“I’d love to play rugby for Hong Kong, but at the moment my goal is obviously at Racing and trying to break into the first team and get a frequent spot. The short-term goal is representing Hong Kong [in Uruguay] and hopefully doing everyone proud.”
Hong Kong squad: Mark Coebergh (c), Paul Altier, Dan Archer, Zachary Baldwin, Jake Barlow, Mikkel Christensen, Jay Cooke, Max Denmark, Oliver Duffy, Ken Encarnacion, Thomas Gibb, James Karton, Alex Nisbit, Lachlan Oliver-Kerby, Oliver Overman, Henry Poon Yau-him, Daniel Pusack, Gregor Ramage, Marcus Ramage, Austin Robertshaw, Jack Scanlon, Cameron Smith, Thaddeus Summers, Tsoi Kin-san, Wong Ho-yin, Matt Worley.