Rowan Varty first began playing rugby at the age of nine and it was the draw of playing in the Hong Kong Sevens which introduced him to the game at an early age. His parents took him to the Hong Kong Sevens each year and after watching the exhibition matches with children his own age playing, he and a friend decided they would rather be playing than watching. Varty began his rugby career by joining what was then the Kai Tak Tigers. Twenty-three years later, he is happy to say that he was able to fulfil his dream of playing at the Hong Kong Sevens (for the Kai Tak Tigers under 10s team) and then later for Hong Kong.
Touring the world with rugby
Playing rugby has taken Rowan around the world, both on tour and to play for a variety of teams. Throughout that time, he has represented Hong Kong internationally. Both of Rowan’s parents grew up in Hong Kong and raised him and his sister here, so representing Hong Kong has always been the biggest source of pride for him in his rugby career.
Varty has represented Hong Kong at the Hong Kong Sevens twelve times, winning the inaugural shield competition in 2010. He also captained Hong Kong to their first ever Asian Sevens Series victory in 2012, represented Hong Kong at three Rugby 7s World Cups, three Asian Games (winning two silver medals), and the National Games of the PRC, where Hong Kong also won a silver medal.
His rugby career was built upon and motivated by playing for Hong Kong at the Sevens. He has also had the great fortune of representing Hong Kong over forty times in the 15-a-side game, training with London Irish at a time when 2003 World Cup winner Mike Catt was player-coach, representing the Penguins RFC (a touring team made up of international players from around the world), and being the only Hong Kong person to represent the Barbarians RFC against England at Twickenham. He also spent a year playing in Japan for the Toyota Industries team based in Nagoya.
Balancing rugby with the law
Varty has been fortunate enough to enjoy a successful rugby career alongside his career in law. This has involved some flexibility from both ends at times; he sat his final PCLL (Postgraduate Certificate in Laws) exam and immediately got on a flight to Japan to play in a test for Hong Kong. During his training contract, he would train with the Hong Kong team before and after work. Needless to say it was a busy time in his life!
On more than a few occasions, the two careers have coincided. One such occasion was in preparing for the 2010 Asian Games, the eligibility requirements for the Hong Kong rugby team to compete changed, and the players were required to hold a Hong Kong SAR passport. Rowan was able to work on the naturalisation applications of his teammates which ultimately allowed for those players to compete in the Asian Games. Hong Kong won a silver medal.
The greatest thing about rugby has been the people he has met through the sport. These include the partners at Tanner De Witt, who were brave enough to offer a rugby player a training contract, and then support him as he has balanced his career in law with his career in rugby. Without the support of the firm he would be a rugby player, or a lawyer, but not both. He is truly indebted to them for their support and foresight and would like to take this opportunity to thank them.
Rugby in Hong Kong
Hong Kong has a small rugby playing population but it is unusual in the sense that this small population is made up of professional players at one end, and very social players (who may not even play that much) at the other. Rowan is currently at the professional end of that scale, but looks forward to joining the opposite end in the future.
Rugby is a physical sport. Certainly at the elite level, the size of the players and physicality of the game have both grown in the last few years. But ultimately, rugby is a game of skill. Perhaps the biggest draw of the game is that it can be played by those of all shapes and sizes, and a brief glance at the teams competing each weekend in Hong Kong will confirm this. As one of the smaller, faster players, Varty has spent his career running away from the bigger and (hopefully) slower ones.
Professional rugby players make up a very small percentage of the rugby community in Hong Kong. There is a strong rugby culture here, which whilst originally built within the expat community, has grown more recently in the local community. If you are interested in playing rugby, helping as a coach, offering a helping hand in any way, or simply joining a rugby club purely for the social aspect, Rowan encourages you to do so. The Hong Kong Rugby Union website has plenty of information on the various clubs which are spread all over Hong Kong and clubs are always ready to welcome new players, coaches, and those that can simply offer a helping hand even if they have no rugby experience whatsoever.