04th Jun 2021

The Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) has announced that Bloomberg HK Scottish Director of Rugby and interim Hong Kong coach Craig Hammond will take up the role of head coach for UK Championship league side Nottingham RFC.  It is a return full circle for Hammond, one of Nottingham RFC’s most iconic players - having represented the club in 284 league games, 236 of those as captain.

Hammond, who played most of his professional career at Meadow Lane, described the opportunity to return as the chance of a lifetime.

“I would not have left Hong Kong for any old job. There is only one club that I would uproot my family, and give up an international coaching opportunity for, and that’s Nottingham. This is an incredible chance for my family and me and ultimately I couldn’t say no.

“When the offer came, it was gut wrenching, because both organizations are incredibly meaningful to me, but joining Nottingham and coaching in the Championship was a great chance for me to continue developing as a coach, and to continue supporting the club where I have spent most of my career. I am still hugely passionate about Nottingham and having the opportunity to captain the club as player, and now being able to return as coach, was too hard to resist.

“Although I am a native New Zealander, my wife and I spent 11 years at Nottingham, and all three of our children were born there, so it is effectively like returning home. Many of my teammates and those involved with the club in my playing days still live there as well.”

Hammond was instrumental in helping Nottingham reach the UK Championship and is keen to continue that progress from the side-line.

“The club has become more established both on and off the field since my playing days. I want to help us take the next step to the top tier of English rugby. I’m excited to start doing what I like to do most, building winning cultures, creating environments that drive people to perform, and challenging myself and those around me to produce their best,” he added.

Hammond has been an influential figure in local rugby circles and in the Hong Kong coaching team since arriving in 2012, serving as a Club Coaching Officer before joining HK Scottish’s front office. He later coached the FWD South China Tigers, Hong Kong’s franchise in the pandemic halted Global Rapid Rugby competition, and was an assistant coach to the Hong Kong men’s XV through two Rugby World Cup qualification cycles, before being named interim Hong Kong coach earlier this year.

“I feel very fortunate to have been so warmly welcomed in the Hong Kong rugby community and at Scottish, and to have made so many friends and worked alongside such high calibre individuals at the HKRU. Our time here is something that we will always treasure,” he added.

Hammond will depart for the UK in July, which means that he will no longer take the Hong Kong team to the oft-delayed Asia Rugby Championship, now scheduled for November. While acknowledging that the timing of his departure isn’t ideal, he remains confident in the squad’s ability to manage the task at hand.

“We have many talented and smart players who are fully vested and comfortable in the set-up and more and more quality players are coming through, so I’m fully confident in the squad’s chances to win a third straight Asian title,” he said.

Mr Robbie McRobbie, Chief Executive of the HKRU commented on the departure saying, “Since his arrival in Hong Kong, Craig has been an important part of the continuous development of our representative teams and the increasing competitiveness of the HKRU Premiership.

“He was highly successful in his role as the head coach of the South China Tigers, pulling together a competitive team from all over the world in a short timeframe, and is another member of the Leigh Jones’ coaching tree.

“We are disappointed, but not surprised, to lose him, and wish him all the best at Nottingham,” McRobbie added.

The HKRU has also confirmed that it has entered discussions with an interim coach from a Tier 1 Union to lead the squad to the upcoming Asia Rugby championship, with an announcement expected later this month.