25 Apr 2019

In keeping with our longstanding objective to build the game of Women’s Rugby throughout the HKRU, Hong Kong and rugby in general, the high-profile nature of the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens week felt like the perfect opportunity for the second instalment of our Women’s Rugby Leadership Forum.


The aims of the Women’s Rugby Leadership Forum were as follows;

  • Identify and bring together local and international female rugby players to meet and hear women in various different leadership roles speak about leadership, the challenges and opportunities, and what advice they have for players.
  • Present and discuss different leadership roles available within rugby and the steps that World Rugby is taking to help encourage more women to take up those leadership roles.
  • Promote and encourage more women to become involved in leadership roles within rugby.


Kim Boreham, Director of Women’s Rugby at the HKRU took to the stage first to set the scene. As we are all aware, women’s and girls’ rugby continues to grow in popularity and indeed numbers worldwide. This success would not be achievable without the support from the community, volunteers, committee and board level members. Therefore, in order to strengthen participation in the game, female leadership must be reflected and strengthened at all levels and facets of the game, through clubs, committees and the board.


World Rugby is a huge supporter of this objective, and in their plan to accelerate global development of rugby in 2017, they stated;

By 2024, rugby will be a global leader in sport, where women involved in rugby have equity on and off the field, are reflected in all strategy, plans and structures, making highly valued contributions to participation, performance, leadership and investment in the global game of rugby.”


World Rugby believe that rugby should set the standard for best practice in this area, and commend the promotion and positioning of women in rugby for the significant increase in involvement and interest from fans, audiences, players and investors. Taking this up to board level, they also aim for female representation at Board level to reach 30%;

Female Board members bring a wealth of skill and experience that can be applied to all areas of governance. They are not there to only represent ‘women’s issues’. Men can equally champion women’s involvement in the game and there are many great examples in our sport of male Board members doing just that.”


Since our last women’s forum, World Rugby has continued this strategy throughout all areas of the game, and since January 2019 has noted the following achievements;

  • The total registered female players increased by 28% in 2018
  • Women account for more than a quarter of total players globally
  • There has been a 37% increase in video views from female audiences
  • New Zealand were appointed Women’s Rugby World Cup 2021 hosts
  • In 2019 World Rugby began an internal competition calendar review and complete high-performance assessment of 22 unions
  • 14 women’s leadership development scholarships were awarded in 2019
  • Regional leadership forums were held in Botswana, Madrid & Bangkok aimed at providing strategic direction to the regional growth of Women’s Rugby
  • A High Performance Coaching review put forward a set of recommendations to increase opportunities for female coaches at high-performance level


With this as a foundation, Kim Boreham then ran through the opportunities available for leadership roles both on-field and off-field, from club to referees, players to board members.


The second half of the forum took on a panel format based on three key areas within the rugby world, moderated by Sam Feausi, Head of Women’s Rugby Development at the HKRU.


Firstly, the subject of Coaching was discussed, as Helen Buteme, Uganda Women’s VII’s Coach and Jo Hull, Hong Kong Women’s XV’s coach took to the stage. Helen had an interesting progression from National Player, to Captain, to Coach. Similarly to Jo who progressed from Player, to Coach, to High Performance Manager. Impressively Jo was also the only female coach present at the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2017.


The second panel tackled the broad subject of Governance, gathering thoughts from Kim Boreham, Ada Milby and Shao Wang Ing. Kim as mentioned is our current Director of Women’s Rugby at the HKRU, who began as a National Player, then took a role as the first female Club Chairman for Valley RFC, and then progressed to the HKRU Board. Ada holds the impressive feat of first female World Rugby Council member. Shao Wan Ing from Singapore Rugby Union had a similar background in playing and coaching, before becoming the first rugby Judicial Officer at the Rio Olympics.


Finally, the star players and Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens ambassador Portia Woodman and Laureus ambassador Nolli Waterman took the stage, in front of a crowd of admiring fans. Nolli is capped for both England VII’s and XV’s, gaining her Senior cap at just 18 years old and playing an integral role in the England winning team at the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup. From the other side of the pond, Portia Woodman is a well-renowned on the rugby scene, playing for both New Zealand VIIs and XV’s teams, involved in the winning squad for the 2017 Rugby World Cup and voted World Rugby Player of the Year this year. Our two ambassadors were joined by one of our own, Natasha Olson-Thorne, one of the most recognised and respected players in the Hong Kong National team who shared her knowledge and experiences of rugby in Hong Kong.


All in all, a fantastic evening of insights, education and inspiration. Thank you to all our fantastic panellists, moderator Sam Feausi, presenter Kim Boreham and to all who attended... until next year!