Hong Kong Rugby Union

Hong Kong’s Chong Shun-hong soaks up Fiji’s famed sevens culture in ‘Rugby Town’

The 19-year-old says he wants to be like his opponents in Sigatoka and ‘play rugby every day’

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 January, 2018, 2:38pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 January, 2018, 9:57pm

It calls itself Rugby Town and after just one day of the colour and excitement of Sigatoka’s Coral Coast Sevens, Hong Kong youngster Chong Shun-hong can see why.

The 19-year-old is in awe of Fiji’s much-vaunted sevens culture, saying he wants to be like his opponents and “play rugby every day”.

It is the first time Hong Kong have sent a youth team to the tournament – which features predominantly local sides – and Chong is determined to cash in on the opportunity.

“Playing against the Fiji teams, the Fiji style is so different to Hong Kong,” he said. “I’m learning a lot because Fiji is a country with rugby everywhere and everyone loves playing. I want to be like them and play rugby every day.”

Hong Kong-born Chong is just five years into his rugby career and has progressed quickly through the underage ranks to the point where he is within striking distance of a senior debut.

“It shows the connectivity in Hong Kong rugby, he came through our Warriors local player development programme into national age grade and then into the podium programme and he has progressed right through into the men’s programme,” Hong Kong coach Stephen Dowse said.

“He’s been challenged the whole way and he has responded well. Out here is another test that we have thrown at him.

“There’s a group that are pushing each other and another of the benefits of this tournament is that [senior coach] Paul John gets to see these guys and see how they stack up in a unique environment.”

The magnitude of the love for sevens in this part of the world has been on full view for Dowse and his team, with the electric atmosphere generated by the impressive opening-day crowd offering a taste of what to expect as the tournament progresses.

“We’ve come from the home of sevens to the home of sevens so it’s great. Hong Kong and Fiji are very similar in their love for the sevens game,” he said.

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“I know the boys have really enjoyed being here and even just going down to the local pitch for training sessions, there’s guys coming out and wanting to join in and wanting to chat to you. It’s such a really humbling experience to be honest.”

The tournament is the first time a Hong Kong boy’s age grade sevens team has played outside Asia and the team is made up of players from the podium programme.

The programme was put in place by the Hong Kong Rugby Union to prepare young players for the rigours of professional rugby and Dowse expects this trip to be a vital stepping stone.

“Coming to somewhere like Fiji, where it is a lot different to Asia, the whole social and outside experience has been fantastic and it’s challenging the guys in a different way, which is crucial to their development,” he said.

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Hong Kong opened their account on Wednesday with a 31-7 win over the RA Barbarians, with winger Marcus Ramage running in three tries, before defeating Nailaga 31-7 and Northern Spirit 26-14.

They will play First Light Taveuni in the quarter-finals on Thursday, while Hong Kong’s women get their campaign underway on Thursday before the men’s tournament kicks off on Friday.