Dan John only arrived in Hong Kong at the beginning of the school year, but he’s already been making waves in the local U19 rugby scene, and has secured a reputation as a powerful player and prolific try scorer.
“I have been playing and watching rugby for as long as I can remember,” said Dan, 15. Hardly surprising: in Dan’s home country of Wales, rugby is an important symbol of national identity and spirit; you’d be hard pressed to find another nation that embraces the sport as passionately.
As Dan puts it, rugby is “like a religion to some people in Wales”, and he isn’t exaggerating.
Rugby runs in the John family blood. Dan continued the family tradition by starting his rugby career at Llantwit Fardre Rugby Football Club, near the city of Cardiff, the same team his father and grandfather once played for.
Since then, Dan has represented Wales in several international competitions and captained at his previous school for four years.
While moving to Hong Kong was a big change, it didn’t have any effect on Dan’s passion for the game. He’s already made himself indispensible as vice captain for Kellett, his new school. He is also playing for the Hong Kong Football Club.
As mentioned, Dan’s family has a strong rugby heritage, which he is particularly proud of. That’s why getting to hold the Rugby World Cup Sevens trophy that his dad won for Wales in 2009 as head coach of the Welsh team is one of Dan’s favourite rugby memories.
His admiration for his family’s achievements goes further than just pride. “Since both of them have made rugby their lives,” Dan said of his father and grandfather, “it’s only natural that I would like to do the same.”
Dan aspires to professional rugby player status, although he is also open to the idea of working in rugby analysis, which would combine his love of sports with his interest in technology.
Dan says that it is quite straightforward for students in Hong Kong to start playing rugby. There are rugby clubs in virtually every district, and it’s becoming more and more common for both local and international schools to have their own teams.
In fact, the Hong Kong Rugby Union is working hard to make rugby more accessible to students of all ages. Their ambitious target is to have touch rugby in 240 primary schools by 2019, which will give them a firm foundation upon which they can construct a path that starts players at the age of four and takes them straight through to the national level.
While it’s easy for students to get involved in rugby, some may worry that it will distract them from their studies. But Dan, whose dad was brought to Hong Kong to coach the city’s rugby sevens team, disagrees; in fact, he views it as “a brilliant way to get away from school work, get exercise and have fun without the stress of school bothering you.”
Dan’s advice for students who are interested is to “play rugby for school first before joining a club”. That way, they can figure out how much they enjoy the sport and where their talents lie before making a bigger commitment.