It's been confirmed - the tournament is (almost) a go! Hong Kong is set to take part in the World Series Rugby - a competition set up by Andrew Forrest (a mining magnate from Perth, Australia). While this tournament has been on the cards for some time, it has just made it one step closer to receiving the final seal of approval by the governing body, World Rugby.
Photo Credit: Western Force. Hong Kong vs Western Force 10th August 2018
The tournament will kick off in March of 2019 and finish in June the same year. The competition will feature a number of international teams, and Hong Kong can expect to face teams from New Zealand, Fiji, Japan (who are set to enter 2 sides), Singapore, and unsurprisingly, Australia.
The competition was started by Forrest after Western Force (based in Perth) was dropped from the Australian Super Rugby Conference. While 2018 was the competition's fist year, Forrest has upped the stakes by adding a $1 Million AUD (approx $5.6 Million HKD) prize for the winning team - enough to buy a small studio apartment in Hong Kong, although we presume the HKRU (Hong Kong Rugby Union) might have other plans for the money if Hong Kong wins.
World Rugby's executive committee recommended approval of Forrest's plans to the World Rugby Council, but this meeting of the elders won't take place until November 2018.
Forrest has commented, "We have worked closely with World Rugby, Rugby Australia, Hong Kong Rugby Union and New Zealand Rugby for several months to get this over the line... The support provided by the World Rugby executive committee is an important milestone and I would particularly like to thank World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper, Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle and the many other rugby leaders around the world that have had the vision and foresight to champion this competition."
Photo Credit: Business News Western Australia. Andrew Forrest and Raelene Castle
It's clear to see that Forrest sets his sights on developing the game in the region, and ideally, restoring Western Force to its former glory. Prior to Hong Kong's previous clash against Western Force, HKRU's Chief Executive, Robbie McRobbie remained cautious and said "It’s obviously interesting for us to see how we would stack up against the Force if we ended up in the competition." Unfortunately, Hong Kong suffered a 24-45 defeat against their Australian opponents, but perhaps this isn't surprising as Hong Kong was fielding an experimental squad that comprised a number of players from outside Hong Kong's elite rugby programme. While this gave the up-and-comers an opportunity to stretch their legs and see how they would fair, it's clear there's still some work to be done if Hong Kong's in with a chance of winning that prize money!
Photo Credit: Getty Images. Western Force beat Hong Kong Dragons
With regards to the World Series Rugby competition, McRobbie said "We are watching developments with interest and we remain interested in the competition, depending on what the details are like." - So are we Robbie, so are we!
Photo Credit: SCMP/Roy Issa. Hong Kong Rugby Union Chief Executive, Robbie McRobbie
We wish Hong Kong Rugby Union, Robbie McRobbie, all the coaches, staff and players the best of luck with the upcoming tournament, and fingers crossed there aren't any snags with getting the competition off the ground come November! Hong Kong Rugby Union have been making significant progress over the past few years; the highlight so far being when the Hong Kong team made history at the 2017 Women's World Cup in Ireland!
Photo Credit: WWRC. Hong Kong Team at the Rugby World Cup 2017
McRobbie commented on Hong Kong's World Cup performance, "I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of a Hong Kong representative team... every single member of the squad brought huge credit on themselves and our city, and I believe they will have achieved a lasting legacy.” Let's hope that legacy continues through all of the various tournaments Hong Kong Rugby throw themselves into. Hey Ho, Let's Go!