Mar 28, 2018

A Game for the Ages: A Brief History of Rugby in Hong Kong


When a 16-year-old student by the name of William Webb Ellis ran with the ball in his hands during a football match in the year 1823, the first inklings of the game which would later be known by the name of Rugby glimmered into existence. Not many years after the incident, the first ever Rugby team was formed in Cambridge, by the name of Cambridge Rules.


A few decades down the line, the first international Rugby match was played between Scotland and England in the year 1871. Since its inception, the fanbase for Rugby has only grown; from the first International Championship amongst England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland in the year 1882 to the first World Cup in the year 1987. By the year 2000, the Five Nations Rugby Championship became Six Nations, with the introduction of Italy. The current winners of the Six Nations Championship are Ireland, having won the 2018 Championship.



Rugby in HK


The history of Rugby in Hong Kong goes almost as far back – around a hundred and fifty years, in fact. The first Rugby game was played by the Hong Kong Football Club in the same year as its formation, in 1886. Hong Kong was not very far behind England in catching up with the Rugby fever. This can be attributed to Hong Kong’s colonial history. In fact, the first formal Rugby competition in these parts was a Triangular tournament held between HKFC, the Royal Navy and Army, in 1910-1911.


Although the tournament went on to become Quadrangular, Pentangular and Hexangular with the addition of Hong Kong Police, RAF and other civilian clubs, the participation of locals was next to zero. It was only the late 1980s when the local Chinese began to participate in considerable numbers.


Rugby has been played in Hong Kong for a century and a half but it was majorly dominated by the western populace for a very long time. The craze for the sport of Rugby took a long time to spread to the local population – but, slowly and surely, it has.


Mini Rugby is another form of Rugby that has helped a lot in the growth of the sport in the region. Mini Rugby caters to younger Rugby enthusiasts. It is an attempt to introduce kids to the sport at an early stage. It uses a smaller ball and a smaller pitch than normal Rugby. Along with the rest of the world, Mini Rugby has caught on in Hong Kong as well. The Hong Kong Mini Rugby Football Union (HKMRFU) which was formed in the year 1980 has flourished tremendously, with over 20 active clubs catering to around 4,600 children.


Rugby Sevens



Rugby Sevens can be defined as a variant of the traditional game of Rugby. It is a smaller version of the game where there are seven players on each side instead of 15. The halves last for seven minutes as compared to the 40-minute halves of the original game of Rugby.


In Hong Kong, Sevens has gained tremendous popularity the past few decades. The idea germinating largely due to technical sponsorship issues, Hong Kong Sevens has now transformed into a surprisingly successful venture. The first Hong Kong Sevens was held on March 28, 1976, and saw the participation of clubs from countries like Indonesia, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, Japan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Fiji. It has since become a major catalyst for the spread of popularity of the game throughout Asia.


The reason why Hong Kong Sevens is considered a milestone in the field of Rugby is because it was the first rugby tournament that garnered commercial sponsorship, with the airline Cathay Pacific sponsoring the tournament of 1976. This was largely due to its popularity with the local and international populace – the shortened format of the game is both more playable and more watchable.



The Tournament


Right from its inception, Hong Kong Sevens has been seen as one of the (if not the most) important events for sports enthusiasts in Hong Kong. It is held annually on a weekend in late March or early April in Hong Kong, with the 2018 tournament being held during the weekend of April 5-8, 2018, at the Hong Kong Stadium. A more inclusive event than many other traditional sporting events, Hong Kong Sevens (sponsored this year by HSBC Bank as well) gives considerable space to the women’s Rugby teams as well as the men’s teams. Children from the Mini Rugby teams also get to showcase their skills before each game throughout the tournament.


The atmosphere is light-hearted and charming, more that of a carnival or a party! Fans dress in colourful costumes and there is a great deal of good-natured cheering and jeering. The game is not just enjoyed in the stadium but outside as well, with restaurants and pubs doing great business as fans sit down together to support their favourite team.


Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, as it is known this year, has definitely played an instrumental role in giving Rugby a more local flavour and in focusing the interest of Hong Kongers towards this fascinating and high-energy sport.


So where do you plan to be next weekend? We at Mozaic Club have our plans set – we hope to see you at Hong Kong stadium on April 5 to 8!



Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens is hosted by the Hong Kong Rugby Union. The event spreads over four days (April 5-8, 2018) from 10.30 am to 6 pm. The truly international tournament includes countries like Kenya, Papua New Guinea, Mexico, Kazakhstan, Belgium, Argentina, Wales, Poland, and of course China and Hong Kong.

You can visit this link to purchase your tickets:


#mozaic #ruby #HKRugbySeven

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