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Rugby: HK U-20s trio praise “incredible opportunity” with Chiefs

Three of Hong Kong’s top teenagers joined The Chiefs’ U-19s summer development camp. Photo: c/o HKRFU.

Three of Hong Kong’s top teenagers joined The Chiefs’ U-19s summer development camp. Photo: c/o HKRFU.

July 14, 2015: Three of Hong Kong’s most promising teenagers have spoken about the rugby and life lessons learned at The Chiefs’ two-week U-19s summer development camp in New Zealand, the latest chapter in the HKRFU’s partnership with the famed Super Rugby franchise.


Scrumhalf Ray Li Tsz-hun and flanker Ben Tang Cheuk-hang of Tin Shui Wai and Gai Wu prop Ken Encarnacian were chosen to visit New Zealand, three months after the trio represented Hong Kong in the U20 Junior World Rugby Trophy in Portugal.


The two-week camp focused on both core and personal skills development, designed to help the players improve themselves even after the camp.


Li, 19, is preparing to graduate to the senior ranks and the scrumhalf said the two weeks in Hamilton helped open his eyes to what’s required to make the grade at the highest level.


“Joining the programme in New Zealand with a world-class organisation like the Chiefs has been incredible. My dream is to represent Hong Kong in the Rugby World Cup. I’ll do anything to achieve this dream, so the camp was an incredible opportunity to improve myself and learn how to be a true professional, by training alongside all of these great youth players and coaches,” Li said.


“After the camp I realised that the first thing I need to do is adjust my attitude, not just on the field but in how I approach everything in my life. I have to continue to improve my strength and conditioning. I need to have a healthy body and to be a good man. I have to adopt good habits like sleeping early and eating more healthily.


“A chance like this is never easy so I have to prepare better than anyone else, but I also know that I’ll keep going and keep doing my job to overcome any physical limitations and chase my dreams.”


Tang and Encarnacian, both 18, remain age eligible for U20s rugby in the coming season, including the qualification attempt for next year’s Junior World Rugby Trophy.


Tang said: “My short-term goal is to get into the U20s sevens and long-term to play in the Hong Kong Premiership. This camp showed me I need to have the courage to pursue these goals. I also learned that I need to really focus on my nutrition because I’m small for a flanker in the Premiership.”


Encarnacian said one of the highlights of the camp was meeting All Blacks flanker Sam Cane and giant prop Ben Tameifuna, who were both part of the New Zealand U-20 team in 2011.


“Joining the camp definitely taught me a lot of things I need to know as a player. Learning that knowledge from great coaches and players like Ben Tameifuna and Sam Cane who came by during the camp to teach us how to become professional players was an incredible experience,” Encarnacian said.


“I also learned a lot about the values, commitment and behaviour I have to bring to the game in order to achieve my goals. Two of the key things I’ve learned are the importance of proper nutrition and a professional attitude. I’ve also learned a lot about how to maintain a professional attitude off of the field.


“Those two things will help me become both a better person and better player than I am today. Now I want to bring that knowledge back to Hong Kong and share it with my clubs, Operation Breakthrough and Gai Wu.”


The youngsters were put through their paces in days that ran from 6.30am to 9.30pm, with a variety of training sessions and conditioning work supplemented by workshops and presentations on leadership, nutrition and building a team culture.


The players also had the opportunity for individual review sessions where they could focus on the core skills that will help develop the skills demanded in their specific positions.


Stephen Dowse, the HKRFU Player Development Manger who has worked closely with the U20s in recent seasons, accompanied the three to the camp to analyse the Chiefs development programmes.


Dowse said: “Individual responsibility and team culture have been the standout themes of the camp. The players fully embraced this and I have seen a marked difference in how they look at themselves as players over the past two weeks, as well as in their understanding of their personal ability to effect a positive change both on and off the pitch.”


Dai Rees, General Manager of Performance Rugby at the HKRFU, said: “This was the first opportunity for us to focus on development rugby since the deal with the Chiefs was finalised. We knew it would be a great opportunity for the players selected to experience the intensity of the Chiefs development programmes and move themselves up the professional ladder.


“Ken, Ben and Ray are three very talented local players who have had little exposure to rugby outside of Hong Kong. We want to encourage players like this to stay involved in performance rugby after their school years are over and to also work closely with them to help advance them along the pathway to international senior rugby, so the Chiefs camp was a natural fit,” said Rees.


Source: HKRFU (; Editing by SportAsia

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