|Rugby union in Hong Kong|
Opening Celebration of Hong Kong Sevens, 2008
|Governing body||Hong Kong Rugby Football Union|
|National team(s)||Hong Kong|
Rugby union in Hong Kong is long established, partly as a result of its being a British colony. In contrast to the People's Republic of China, it has had a continuous existence dating back over a hundred years, and is most notable for the Hong Kong Sevens tournament, the most well known of the rugby sevens tournaments. The top domestic club competition is the HKRFU Premiership.
The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union was established in 1952, and joined the IRB in 1988.
Rugby football has been played in Hong Kong for over a hundred and fifty years.
Hong Kong is best known for its development of rugby sevens, an abbreviated code from Melrose in the Scottish Borders. Naturally it became popular amongst other groups in the city, particularly other white ex-patriates. Hong Kong Football Club was established in 1886, and played its first game of rugby against a 'Garrison XV' the same year. Prior to that it is likely that ad hoc games were organised by businessmen, such as HSBC. British forces sides would also have been prominent.
Formal competition began in 1910-11 with a 'Triangular' tournament between HKFC, the Royal Navy and Army. This was expanded to a 'Quadrangular' in 1940 with the addition of a side from Hong Kong Police. After WWII the competition recommenced in 1947-48, becoming a 'Pentangular' in 1954 when the RAF joined in, and a year later a 'Hexangular' when the Army split their resources 'North and South'.
Nevertheless, the HKRFU decreed in 1957 that however many teams there might be in the top flight competition, it would be known as the 'Pentangular' - and so it remained until 1975 when a 'Division 1' championship was instigated following the founding of two new civilian clubs, Valley in 1975 and Kowloon in 1976 (having previously competed as YMCA from 1974).
In the late-1980s, the local Chinese began to participate more fully, with the establishment of a Police team of locals, the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme (DEA) had a team as did a team of Japanese, Gai Wu. With the booming of the HK economy came more and more expatriates, in 1992 a team of expat old boys of King George V School formed Typhoons and Aberdeen RFC was established in 1993. In the same year a team, with many local players Causeway Bay RFC was established.
Women began playing full contact rugby in 1991, and a women's league, playing 7s, was set up in 1992. After a few seasons playing 10s, women's league is now full XV-a-side.
Rugby caught on slowly but surely with the local population, thanks to HKRFU's constantly improving development programme, and the fact that many more local Chinese had played whilst in overseas education, and simply because rugby has been widely recognised as an excellent game to play.
This fact is clear to see from the explosion of mini rugby in the local population since c.2000. Having previously been established by expat parents in 1979, the game expanded slowly through and the 1980s and became more and more attractive to local families as the 1990s went on. There are now rugby clubs in all parts of Hong Kong, and playing numbers are measure in 1000s, if not 10s of 1000s.
The transfer of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to the People's Republic of China was not the total disaster for rugby there that some predicted. Since the handover, the Hong Kong Sevens continue to flourish, and there is increasing interest in the game within Mainland China as well.
Because of the territory's small size, it was argued that rugby sevens would be more useful in promoting the game than 15-a-side.
The Hong Kong Sevens have proven a powerful missionary force in Asia,allowing nations with small numbers of players to compete at a high level, and improve the standard of their game. Perhaps because of this high profile, Hong Kong was allowed to compete in the Asian Championship, a predecessor to the Asian Five Nations.
Bill McLaren, in his autobiography Talking of Rugby writes at length about his Hong Kong Sevens experiences:
The Hong Kong Sevens (Chinese: 香港國際七人欖球賽) is considered the premier tournament on the IRB Sevens World Series in rugby union. The tournament was set up in 1976, and attracted clubs from Asia and beyond, from Indonesia, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, Japan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Fiji for the first tournament alone. It was held at the Hong Kong Football Club in Happy Valley. After an initial proposal was refused by the Rugby Football Union in England, the HKRFU changed focus and sent out invitations to Asian and Pacific sides.
The Rugby World Cup Sevens have been held twice in Hong Kong - see 1997 Rugby World Cup Sevens and 2005 Rugby World Cup Sevens.
The 2013 British and Irish Lions Tour to Australia started with a match against the Barbarians in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong has two 15-a-side teams - men's and women's
The men's team is a third tier rugby playing nation. They first played in 1952, the first local Chinese to be capped was CHAN Fuk-ping in 1994. These days, HK players consist of a mixture of both Hong Kong Chinese, and Caucasian players, with many being 'half-and-half'.
They have competed in the first Asian Five Nations recently.
The 8-team HKRFU Premiership is the top level of competition. The HKRFU Premiership A is the next rung down.
Rugby union, widely known simply as rugby, is a full contact team sport that originated in England in the first half of the 19th century. One of the two codes of rugby football, it is based on running with the ball in hand. In its most common form, a game is played between two teams of 15 players using an oval-shaped ball on a rectangular field called a pitch. The field has H-shaped goalposts at both ends.
The Hong Kong Sevens is considered the premier tournament on the World Rugby Sevens Series competition. The Hong Kong Sevens is currently the seventh tournament on the World Series calendar, and is held annually in Hong Kong on a weekend in late March or early April. The tournament spans three days, beginning on a Friday and concluding on Sunday. The tournament is organised each year by the Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU). This year's Hong Kong Rugby Sevens was originally due to be held on Friday 3, Saturday 4, Sunday 5 April 2020, but has been postponed due to the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic, possibly until October 2020.
Rugby sevens, and originally known as seven-a-side rugby, is a variant of rugby union in which teams are made up of seven players playing seven minute halves, instead of the usual 15 players playing 40 minute halves. Rugby sevens is administered by World Rugby, the body responsible for rugby union worldwide. The game is popular at all levels, with amateur and club tournaments generally held in the summer months. Sevens is one of the most well distributed forms of rugby, and is popular in parts of Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas, and especially in the South Pacific.
The Hong Kong national rugby union team, nicknamed the Dragons, is one of the better rugby sides in Asia outside Japan, and has consistently made the repechages of the Rugby World Cup qualifying. Rugby union in Hong Kong is administered by the Hong Kong Rugby Union since 1952, and competes annually in the Asia Rugby Championship.
Rugby union in Fiji is a popular team sport and is considered to be the national sport of the country. The sport was introduced to Fiji in the 1880s. Fiji is defined as a tier two rugby nation by World Rugby. The national team has competed at the Rugby World Cup and made it as far as the quarter finals. Their sevens team is also noted for their success, and have won the Rugby World Cup Sevens twice and the World Rugby Sevens Series three times.
The Singapore national rugby union team has yet to make its debut at the Rugby World Cup, though since the 1995 Rugby World Cup, Singapore have been participating in qualification competitions.
Rugby union in Asia is a growing sport, and is governed by the Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU). As of December 2009 there are 28 ARFU member unions, of whom 15 are full members of World Rugby, and six further associate members of World Rugby in Asia. The flagship tournament for promoting the sport in Asia is the Asian Five Nations, which launched in 2008, and which most recently in 2011 saw the national teams of Hong Kong, Japan, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka and the UAE, compete in the main tournament.
The Asia Rugby Championship for women's national fifteen-a-side teams is a rugby union tournament that has been contested since 2006. Organised by Asia Rugby, there are currently two competition divisions. The championship is also the continental qualifying tournament for Asian women's teams in the lead up to the Rugby World Cup.
The Indonesia national rugby union team represents Indonesia in rugby union. They are nicknamed the "Rhinos". The team is a full member of World Rugby. They have yet to play in the Rugby World Cup. The Indonesian squad was formed in 2006 to attend the IRB sanctioned Six Division Asian Rugby Football Tournament between Brunei, Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia. They currently compete in Division 3 South-East in the Asian Rugby Football Union.
Rugby union in China is a growing sport; however, it is still not overly popular. China became affiliated to the International Rugby Board in 1997 and as of 1 July 2019, its women's XV side was ranked 24th and its men's XV side 80th in the world. Neither the women's team nor the men's team has yet qualified for a Women's Rugby World Cup or a men's Rugby World Cup. However, China has hopes of one day hosting the men's event, and World Rugby has indicated it supports taking the event there.
The Sri Lanka Sevens is an annual international rugby sevens tournament held in Sri Lanka. Originally developed as the Singer Sri Lankan Airlines Rugby 7s, the event was founded in 1999 and has featured as a part of the Asian Sevens Series in past seasons.
Rugby union in Indonesia is a minor but growing sport, dating back several decades, and which has experienced fluctuations in its success. There are currently just under six hundred registered players in the country.
Rugby union in Guam is a minor but growing sport. They are currently ranked 82nd by the IRB. Although Guam is often considered part of Oceania, it tends to take part in Asian rugby tournaments.
Rugby union in Sri Lanka is mainly played at a semi-professional and recreational level. It is a popular team sport with a history dating back to 1879. In 2012, according to International Rugby Board figures, there were over 103,000 registered rugby union players in Sri Lanka, making it the second largest rugby-playing nation in Asia, behind Japan.
Rugby union in Malaysia is a sport with a long history, and a significant participation. There are 41,050 registered players, and the country is currently ranked 47th. There are sixteen unions, associations and councils affiliated to the Malaysian Rugby Union, more than 300 clubs, and 600 schools which teach the game. Malaysian rugby's most notable contribution to the game at large is the invention of rugby tens.
Rugby union is not a major sport in Singapore. Singapore is currently ranked 58th in the world and 6th in Asia. As of February 2015, there over 12,000 registered players, with more than 2,000 women playing the sport. There are also 15 formally organised clubs with 4 registered Women's sides.
Rugby union in Thailand is a significant sport. They are currently ranked 60th, with 16,121 registered players.
Hong Kong Scottish is a rugby football club in Hong Kong.
Valley RFC is a sports club based in Hong Kong with a rugby section as well as Netball and Hockey sections. It also has a junior rugby academy called Valley Fort. The club is historically based in Happy Valley, Hong Kong, inside the Happy Valley Racecourse, hence the inspiration for its logo, the Knight chess piece.
Rowan Varty is a British born Hong Kong rugby union player. He plays for the Hong Kong Cricket Club in the HKRFU Premiership. Rowan has also captained the Hong Kong national rugby union team, Hong Kong Sevens team and been selected to play for Barbarians. His sister Lindsay represents Hong Kong in rugby sevens women's team.