14 Jul 2017

Hong Kong coach Jo Hull has named an experienced starting XV for what she labelled a “crucial” match tomorrow against Japan (Kings Park, kick-off at 18.00). The match will conclude the Asia Rugby Championship and represents the last competitive outing for Hong Kong before they make their historic first appearance at a Rugby World Cup next month in Ireland.

“This is a crucial hit-out absolutely. This is our last international before the World Cup and whether we win or lose, we want to perform the way we know we can.

“Last week was about getting players game time and looking at some new combinations, but this week we have gone with an experienced squad.

“It is an experienced group, but it is also a performance group; a lot of these senior players have been performing to standards throughout the build-up, not just in games but in training. It will be good to have players like Christy [flanker Cheng Ka-chi] and Natasha [centre Natasha Olson-Thorne] back.”

Hull expects to need every bit of that experience with Japan, coming off a big win last week, likely to further bolster their squad with their own senior players.

“They will bring back some of their key players, as well. They have their own objectives building up to the World Cup and will come out even harder than last week,” Hull added.

“We are prepared for that,” said Hull.

“It has been a massive re-focus week this week for us, and I’m proud of the level of accountability in the camp. We have worked a lot on eliminating the high number of individual errors from last week, even amongst the senior players; that has been a focus area, as well as the set piece.

“We've had a good week of training and have been replicating a World Cup week where we will be looking to back up again for another big performance like we have to do in Ireland. But all of that doesn’t count for anything, it’s about putting it out on the pitch and the players are aware of that.

“If they get their individual and team jobs right, we could have a special performance and that is our focus. If we get those things right, the result will follow,” Hull said.

Captain Chow Mei-nam leads an experienced group of forwards with the front row anchored by props Wong Yuen-shan and Lee Ka-shun with Karen So at hooker. Chow will assume her normal second row spot, partnering with Amelie Seure, who moves into the tight five to create room for Christine Gordon at No.8. Gordon will pair with sevens captain Cheng and Chan Tsz-ching at flanker.

Mak Ho-yee gets a run at scrumhalf and will combine with Rose Hopewell-Fong, who came of the bench last week to good effect, at fly-half.

“Ho-yee can inject a bit of pace into the game which is something we are after,” said Hull.

Out wide, an all-sevens line-up of backs will also be keen to perform. Vice captain Adrienne Garvey will pair with Natasha Olson-Thorne in the centres with Aggie Poon Pak-yan and Chong Ka-yan on the wings and Colleen Tjosvold at full-back.

The bench sees more experience in depth with Royce Chan Leong-sze, Cheung Shuk-han, Lau Nga-wun and Pun Wai-yan as the front row reserves giving Hull plenty of options as the squad looks to solidify their performance in the set piece, which has been problematic of late.

Scrumhalf Sham Wai-sum joins Lee Tsz-ting and Ivy Kwong Sau-yan as backs reserves, alongside Kelsie Bouttle, who has earned a second appearance after making her debut last weekend away.

“Kelsie didn’t get much of an opportunity last week, so we wanted to give her another run. She brings a different dynamic to the centres for us, which is what we are after,” Hull added.

Japan will offer the selectors a final opportunity to examine their charges in a match environment before naming the final 28-strong squad a week from Saturday at Kings Park (22 July).