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, 23 March 2011, with a coaching clinic for youngsters from the Hong Kong Society for the Protection of Children (HKSPC) and the Qingdao Sharks Rugby Football Club 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 that a sustainable legacy is left within each community. The programme will be conducted in Sri Lanka from April 21-23.
Lomu was a popular figure upon his return to the SAR, where the giant winger burst onto the international stage in 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, HSBC’s special guest for the day.
“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 team work, 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 HSBC ARFU Rugby Coaching Tour alongside former Scotland coach Frank Hadden. Kirwan will also be bidding to lead Japan to a fourth successive HSBC Asian 5 Nations title, a campaign that starts with an away match against 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. 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,” Kirwan said.
From April to June, the tour will visit many of the host venues for this year’s HSBC Asian 5 Nations tournament, including Top Five competitors Sri Lanka, Kazakhstan, Hong Kong, UAE and Japan, as well as Korea and Thailand, which will host Divisions I and II respectively.
Peter Wong, Chief Executive of HSBC Asia-Pacific, said: “The Coaching Tour will sit hand in hand with our title sponsorship of the HSBC Asian 5 Nations – Asia’s leading international rugby tournament – and the newly formed HSBC Asian Sevens Series. We have a long standing commitment to working with ARFU to help grow the sport in the region and this is a clear illustration of that commitment.”
“ARFU is delighted to again partner with HSBC in support of the development of Rugby at the grassroots level in Asia,” said Trevor Gregory, Vice President of ARFU. “Events like today’s coaching clinic and the ongoing HSBC ARFU Rugby Coaching Tour around the HSBC Asian 5 Nations and HSBC Asian Sevens Series will go a long way towards introducing new players to the game in the coming years.”
HSBC has a historical relationship with HKSPC through ARFU and the HSBC Asian 5 Nations. In 2011, the relationship is being broadened to include a summer of rugby clinics provided by HSBC staff volunteers who will be trained as rugby coaches by the HSBC Penguins Coaching Academy.
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.
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