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Premiership Rugby

Johnny Zhang jets into Leicester

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

Zhang has only a month to do so after his trip was cut short because of the outbreak of SARS in China earlier in the year, but he is confident he can make good use of the time with the English club. Originally Zhang was set to join the Tigers in April last year.

"Bad things were happening in China at the time, though, with the outbreak of SARS. It was horrible, because I couldn't go abroad, and I had nothing to do for months," Zhang told the club's official website.

"Last year I was playing for DEA Tigers in Hong Kong, and the people from Leicester Tigers saw me play. They liked me, and when I spoke to people like Peter Wheeler at the club I thought it would be a great chance to open my eyes and study the game, even if it’s only for a short while.

"The standard of rugby here in England is very high, and so I can learn a lot about things like the training methods and just the game in general."

Zhang has plied his trade in Hong Kong and Australia and while his arrival in England did not hit the front pages of any major newspapers, he is regarded as a hero back home in China.

"In China I'm famous, but I'm only a hero in rugby. People in rugby know Johnny Zhang and that he has come to Leicester Tigers, but people who don't follow the game might not know me that much.

"I don't think the Chinese people are too bothered about my coming here, because I've left before for Australia and Hong Kong, but generally the response has been good, and people are wishing me good luck."

And although the quality of rugby in China may not be up the standard of England's Zurich Premiership, Zhang is confident that his time in Australia and Hong Kong will serve him well with the Tigers.

"The level of rugby I've played in Australia and Hong Kong isn’t too bad, and I've always scored a lot of tries, and so I think I can do okay at Leicester."

For now, however, Zhang is just hoping that he can repay the Tigers for the faith they have showed in him already.

"I would like to stay here longer but I have to go back to Hong Kong first to play for the DEA club, where I have a contract until March 2004, when the Hong Kong Sevens is on," he said.

"But Leicester Tigers is a very famous club, and so I'm proud to come here, and I hope to play well so I can say 'thank you' to them for giving me this chance."

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