England sevens pioneer Josh Lewsey taps into rugby family as he makes Hong Kong his home

The 40-year-old has fond memories of the city after playing in his side’s first ever victory at the World Series showpiece event

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 April, 2017, 11:29am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 April, 2017, 11:29am

He helped England to their first ever Hong Kong Sevens victory back in 2002 and now Josh Lewsey is adapting to life in the city.

Having moved to Hong Kong to work for EY, the former British & Irish Lion says rugby just keeps on giving as he comes to terms with the ins and outs of a place he describes as having a “lovely blend of sport, business and social”.

“I’ve never lived abroad and it takes a bit of getting used to, but I’m really excited by it,” Lewsey said.

“When you move by yourself to a new region, you take a new job and you don’t know how anything works, you don’t know how to use the MTR.

“I think I have been so fortunate to have the family that is sport and is rugby to lean on. I have genuinely been touched by how welcoming everyone has been.”

On recalling his fond memories of the 2002 Sevens victory, he says it was “a good day and an even better night”.

The 2003 World Cup winner will be watching closely over the weekend as some of his old colleagues ply their trade.

“It was a great time, I remember playing Fiji in the final and the heavens had opened,” Lewsey said.

“The captain of the team then was Simon Amor who is now the England coach, the coach of the team was [now] USA coach Mike Friday.

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“It’s amazing how the good guys stay in there and they have done amazingly well. I’m very proud to see the progress they have made.”

While Lewsey says his playing days are well and truly over and he has no plans yet to be directly involved in the sport in Hong Kong, it was while playing for a charity team at the Dubai Sevens in December that he realised how lucky he is.

“My brothers [Ed and Tom] organised at the Dubai Sevens this year to play for the first and last time as a family and it reminded me what a special sport we have, what a wonderful family the sport of rugby is, but it reminded me more of why I retired in the first place,” he said.

“I won’t be playing [in Hong Kong]. I’ve just arrived, it would be lovely to stay involved in the sport. What that means, I don’t know yet.”

Lewsey was a special guest at the launch of this year’s Hong Kong Tens last week and praised the tournament for the pure rugby experience it provides for players and fans.

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“The guys that might be in the team at the end of the week [at the Hong Kong Sevens] are playing at the Tens on the Wednesday and Thursday and getting autographs with kids,” he said.

“There is an accessibility about our sport that is very strong and special and long may that continue. That is one of the reasons why I think the Tens represents a lot that is good about our sport.”

As for a tip for the Sevens, Lewsey says he’s not surprised at the recent run of form of his old side, with England winning the last leg in Vancouver and sitting second behind runaway World Series leader South Africa.

“Performing amazingly in Rio and almost getting there would give the players massive confidence to perform at the top level,” he said.

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“The flip side of that is they didn’t quite make gold and therefore a lot of the players are very driven to keep achieving.

“Hong Kong is still seen as the blue riband event on the sevens series so to put that right, if I was still playing that would be a personal driver for me.”

With Warren Gatland set to announce his side for the British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand tomorrow, Lewsey recalled the tough time the Lions had on their 2005 tour against the All Blacks.

But despite the 3-0 drubbing the Lions received, Lewsey feels there is plenty the current crop of players can take out of their misfortune.

“Be really clear how you want to play, really clear, and then you go and do that,” he said. “Perhaps we could have been more specific in terms of how we wanted to play because if you look at the teams in ’05, man for man we had a fantastic group of guys.

“Obviously the test series spoke for itself in terms of scoreline, but I can’t help but feel that the talent we had, we underachieved.”