Over 360 players raise hands for selection at U19s and U16s Boys and Girls level

21st Dec 2022

On the heels of Hong Kong’s victory at the Asia Rugby U19s championship, age grade rugby returns to the SAR in force with the 55th annual New Year’s Day youth rugby tournament at Hong Kong Football Club, sponsored by Hysan Development and First Point USA.  

This five-decades long celebration of Hong Kong rugby’s families - and future - will kick off 2023 at its traditional venue of Hong Kong Football Club.

After Covid related travel complications occasioned a more local format in recent years, 2023 marks the return of the competition’s long-standing format of Hong Kong versus Overseas-based schoolboys and girls.  The 2023 tournament features matches for young men and women at U19s and U16s level with the action kicking off from 12.30 with the Naylor Cup for U16 Girls. That is followed by the George White Trophy (Boys U16) at 13.50; the Lassies Quaich (Girls U19) at 15.10; and the Middlesex Cup (Boys U19) at 16.40.

There will be added interest around the Boys U19s match as it will serve as an additional talent identification opportunity for Hong Kong’s coaches after the U19s win at the Asian age grade championship qualified Hong Kong for the World Rugby Junior Trophy in Kenya in July.

Given the extended disruptions of the pandemic, the HKRU ran an open nomination process to raise awareness of the continuing opportunities for aspiring youth players both home and abroad.  Players, coaches and parents were invited to nominate potential New Year’s Day representatives through 30 November 2022.

Like the young stars of the show, the competition has bounced back robustly from the challenges of recent years with an incredible 366 nominations received across the four age groupings.  

The response at U19s level for both sexes was highly encouraging, with over 230 of the total nominations coming at this level, including nearly 170 for the Boys U19, 70% of which were from Hong Kong based youth players.

Some of these interested players were already drafted into action in the successful U19s team in Malaysia, while the rest have another chance to impress on New Year’s Day.  

The pipeline is also active with over 120 total nominations at U16s grade. 

To support this significant intake, (and demonstrating the import of age grade rugby to the HKRU), over 28 local coaches and senior players, including current and former representative coaches Jevon Groves (Men’s 7s), Tomos Howells (U19s) and Kevin West (women’s rugby) are supporting the four teams to prepare.

Preparations began earlier this month with a week of open training sessions at King’s Park capped by a series of selection games.  Once the final teams are named, the players undergo an additional week of training before the big show.

“After some hugely successful performances by our Hong Kong men’s and women’s senior teams and at the Asia Rugby U19s championship, I am particularly excited to welcome the return of our overseas-based youngsters for the 2023 New Year’s Day youth tournament,” said Mr Tony Karton, an HKRU Director with extensive involvement in supporting youth rugby.

“New Year’s Day has always been an important proving ground for Hong Kong talent and after the challenges of recent years, it is highly encouraging to see the numbers of young players interested to participate.

“The HKRU looks forward to some exciting and highly competitive matches, and to welcoming all on New Year’s Day for what is one of the most special days on the HKRU calendar, and a cherished gathering of Hong Kong’s rugby clans from near and far,” added Mr Karton. 

The Hong Kong Rugby Union New Year’s Day Youth Rugby Tournament 2023 is sponsored by Hysan Development and First Point USA.  Attendance at Hong Kong Football Club is free to all. Public entrance is through the Hong Kong Jockey Club entrance to Happy Valley.