New Zealand rugby legends Jonah Lomu and John Kirwan were the star attractions as this year’s HSBC ARFU (Asian Rugby Football Union) Rugby Coaching Tour kicked off in Happy Valley on Wednesday with a coaching clinic for youngsters from the Hong Kong Society for the Protection of Children (HKSPC) and the Qingdao Sharks RFC from China.
The 15-stop Coaching Tour will engage thousands of children in Asia and introduce them to rugby, while HSBC will provide coach education, kit and equipment to ensure a sustainable legacy is left within each community.
Lomu was a popular figure upon his return to the region where the giant wing burst onto the international stage at the 1994 Hong Kong Sevens before establishing himself as rugby’s biggest superstar with 37 tries in 63 tests, including 15 in two Rugby World Cups, a record that still stands today.
“It has been an amazing day and very rewarding. The HSBC ARFU Rugby Coaching Tour is a great initiative and I’m honoured to be part of this year’s launch,” said 35-year-old Lomu.
“The kids seemed to really enjoy themselves and the bank clearly does great work. Rugby is a fantastic way of introducing many important values and life skills such as teamwork, healthy living and communication, so it is a really positive thing that they have embraced rugby so quickly.”
Kirwan, an HSBC Rugby Ambassador, will take an active role in this year’s Coaching Tour alongside former Scotland coach Frank Hadden. Japan coach Kirwan will also be bidding to lead the Brave Blossoms to a fourth successive HSBC Asian 5 Nations title in a campaign that starts with a match away to Hong Kong next month.
“In initiating this year’s Coaching Tour, HSBC and ARFU are taking another important stride in growing the game throughout the region. As a coach and as an ambassador for HSBC and for the game, I am passionate about the development of rugby at all levels,” said Kirwan.
“This Coaching Tour, which starts at the grassroots of the game and will also involve working with some of the divisional Asian 5 Nations teams as we move throughout the region, is a fantastic example of this in action and I’m delighted to be involved.
“As well as developing existing young rugby players across the continent, the tour will focus on introducing rugby to children who may otherwise not have seen or played the game. Taking the sport to brand new audiences and enabling and inspiring more children to play the game will be a huge marker of success for me,” added the former wing, who scored 35 tries in 63 Tests for New Zealand.
From April to June the tour will visit many of the host venues for this year’s Asian 5 Nations pyramid, including Top Five competitors Sri Lanka, Kazakhstan, Hong Kong, the UAE and Japan as well as Korea and Thailand, who will host Divisions I and II respectively.
Following activities in Macau and Hong Kong over the summer, clinics will be held in host nations on the new HSBC Asian Sevens Series, starting with China and Malaysia in September and followed by Thailand in October and India in November.
“The children had a fantastic time. Jonah Lomu, John Kirwan and the HSBC Penguins gave them a great introduction to the game today and we’re looking forward to continuing this momentum throughout the programme of summer clinics,” said Shinko Wong, social worker for HKSPC.
Kit and equipment will also be provided across the programme to ensure a sustainable legacy is left within each community reached by the Coaching Tour. Children from the HKSPC will be given the opportunity to attend Hong Kong-based Asian 5 Nations fixtures and be involved in clinics and as mascots on match days. This match day activity will be extended to all of the children involved in the programme within each country visited.
HSBC ARFU Coaching Tour 2011
March 23 - Hong Kong
April 21 & 23 - Colombo, Sri Lanka
April 21 - Almaty, Kazakhstan
April 28 - Hong Kong
May 5 - Bangkok, Thailand
May 12 & 13 - Dubai, UAE
May 19 - Hong Kong
May 19 & 21 - Tokyo, Japan
May 30 - Incheon/Seoul, Korea
Dates to be confirmed:
June - Macau
July - Hong Kong
September - Shanghai, China
September - Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
October - Pattaya, Thailand
November - Goa, India
For further details, visit: www.asian5nations.com
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