16th Jun 2021

The Hong Kong Rugby Union today announced the appointment of James Farndon as the new General Manager of Performance Rugby. Farndon, presently Senior Performance Advisor for UK Sport, (the government agency established to support Great Britain’s Olympic and Paralympic sporting programmes), will arrive Hong Kong in August.

“Amongst the dozens of high calibre candidates applying, James stood out for the breadth and depth of his experience, and his expertise at implementing performance sport structures at the highest level,” said Robbie McRobbie, Chief Executive of the HKRU.

“James has familiarity with the oversight of investment in performance programmes, developing strategic partnerships, engaging with clubs, working with age grade representatives and creating world class performance programmes - all areas that uniquely impact HKRU and make him the ideal candidate to take the performance end of Hong Kong Rugby forward,” added McRobbie.

After being involved in the British high performance sport system for two Olympic cycles, Farndon felt the time was right for a change; “I am hugely excited about helping to lead the strategic direction of performance rugby for the HKRU,” said Farndon from the United Kingdom.

“I am passionate about developing people, and seeing others achieve great things, and there is much in the role that appeals to me. Timing, nature of the job, location, everything about the post was of interest, particularly at this time in my career.

“I have enjoyed working full-time in rugby, and have also worked in support of a number of different high performance sports and believe this multi-faceted experience will be very useful. I’m excited to return to Rugby Union because it is my sport and I love the game. Whilst at UK Sport I continued to coach representative sevens and the Penguins in my own time, which has been really important to me.

“I place particular importance on understanding cultures, and this will be no different as I undertake this role with new teams, a new organisation and a new city. I’m keen to understand what works and what might not work so well, identifying where new ideas may be helpful. I’m respectful of the great work done by my predecessors; when you’re filling big shoes, it’s important to go about things as authentically as you can, and in a way that is appropriate for the context, the situation and importantly for the relationships.”

“To that end, I place great importance on getting to know the people involved and understanding their challenges and successes. That’s what drives me, and I get more pleasure from seeing people I work with do great things than achieving them myself,” he said. 

Farndon brings 15 years of high performance programme management to the role. Previously, he served as Performance Operations Manager for the English Institute of Sport and Education and Development Manager, Performance Sport, for Loughborough University. Farndon began his career as a Physical Education teacher, having also completed a short commission in the British Army, serving to the rank of Captain in the Parachute Regiment prior to undertaking his career in High Performance Sport.

His rugby experience is equally extensive, and includes stints with England’s Rugby Football Union where he served as Rugby Development Officer, Coach Educator and a National Trainer. He is an RFU level four certified coach and coached the England Students squad for six years. At club level, Farndon built his coaching experience at Newbury Blues, Dings Crusaders, and Loughborough Students RFC.

“The ability to foster collaborative relationships has been a common thread in my career. Whether in the army, rugby or sport, successful relationships are often the difference between success and failure, enabling individuals, team and organisations to maximise opportunities, thereby unlocking potential.”

Typically, Farndon is already preparing for the challenge ahead and has outlined an engagement plan, which will begin remotely while he readies for relocation.

“The Asia Rugby Championship is obviously a priority and something we need to address relatively quickly. Given the recent transition in the HKRU, it will be important to meet the clubs and other key stakeholders and to start building those relationships so we can achieve what we all want to achieve for the game and the community,” said Farndon.

“The men’s XV is hugely important, but there are a broad spectrum of programmes I’m excited to work with: women’s rugby, which has great growth opportunities; the sevens programmes whom I wish all the best for the Olympic Qualification tournaments later this month; the U20s and age grade rugby as well as building the pathways of the future.’ he added.

In keeping with the totality of his qualifications, Farndon even has a sevens specialisation and is proud of his Head Sevens coaching experiences with top invitational rugby side, Penguin International RFC. Having coached the Great Britain Students at three World University Games, he has seen student players transition quickly into the Senior England and Home Nations Sevens Squads. Farndon also knows interim Hong Kong coach Simon Amor from these experiences, with Amor the former Head of Sevens at the RFU. Despite his sevens interest, Farndon almost sheepishly admits to never having attended a Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, an event he idolized as a youth. Fortunately, Farndon will be able to add another line to his already impressive c.v. in November.