12 Apr 2022

Citing player safety issues, the Hong Kong Rugby Union has withdrawn its men’s fifteen-a-side representative team from the upcoming Asia Rugby Championship and effective Rugby World Cup 2023 qualification competition, scheduled for 28 May to 6 June in South Korea.

Player safety issues arising in part from continuing community-wide anti-pandemic measures have forced the withdrawal from the competition which also serves as part of the regional pathway for Rugby World Cup 2023.

The move follows on a similar withdrawal of the HKRU women’s XV from their Rugby World Cup qualifier earlier this year. After a prolonged period of discussion with organizers Asia Rugby and the other participating Unions, Hong Kong’s request to further alter or postpone the dates for the men’s triangular competition with Malaysia and South Korea was declined.

Given the imminent tournament window and lack of preparation time, it was felt that the competition might pose significantly heightened risks to player safety. Restrictions on access to local sports grounds and gatherings in place until at least 21 April mean that the squad would only have weeks to prepare for the regional championship, an insufficient window given that the Union's elite fifteen-a-side rugby athletes have been unable to train since January, and have not had competitive matches in over four months.

The potential of anti-pandemic measures continuing after April 21 further limits the HKRU's ability to safely contest two international test matches in the space of five days. Rushing preparations for the competition would pose an unacceptable risk to the HKRU's commitment to player safety hastening the final decision to withdraw.

Given Hong Kong’s status as defending Asia Rugby champions, it is understood that the competition will be dramatically impacted by the absence of the Hong Kong XV but the HKRU will not compromise on its commitment to player welfare. The withdrawal is a deeply disappointing result for the HKRU's elite rugby athletes, coaches, staff and supporters, especially as it follows on the heels of a similarly enforced withdrawal of the women's fifteen-a-side programme from their Rugby World Cup 2021 qualifiers earlier this year, effectively bringing Hong Kong Rugby's hopes of Rugby World Cup participation in the current cycles to a premature close.

The Hong Kong Rugby Union would like to thank all of its men’s representative players and staff for their ongoing and continued commitment and patience over the past year as every effort has been expended to ensure its feasible and safe participation in the Asia Rugby Championship.