05 Jul 2017

The Hong Kong women’s national rugby team will face Japan in a home and away series to decide the Asia Rugby Championships this month. The matches on 8 and 15 July will provide Hong Kong’s final competitive warm-up ahead of their historic first appearance at the Rugby World Cup in Ireland in August.

“These games are a great opportunity as they come so close to the World Cup squads. We are really lucky to have this competition to fine-tune our preparations for Ireland,” said Hong Kong coach Jo Hull.

Hull has announced her squad for the away match this weekend (8 July) at the Shroyama Athletic Field in Odarawa (kick-off at 11.00am Hong Kong time).

National Age Grade programme graduate Kelsie Bouttle is set to earn her first cap after a standout season for league and Grand Championship winners Valley. Hull has also welcomed the return of some of the side’s senior campaigners in centre Adrienne Garvey, who will captain the team in Japan, and flanker Christine Gordon.

“It is a bit of a different squad,” confirmed Hull, who hailed the team’s, “good mix of experience”.

“It is great to have Rocky [Garvey] and Chrissie [Gordon] back, and we are excited to be able to blood another new cap in Kelsie, along with the five first-timers who went to Spain.

“We are using this opportunity to look at a few different starters and combinations, like Lindsay Varty at scrumhalf and ‘BB’ [Lee Tsz-ting] at ten. We think that could be an exciting combination as both are playing well at the moment.

“The selection reflects our preparations for the World Cup, which is our only focus at the moment. Everything we’re doing is building towards being ready for the first match against Canada next month,” Hull said.

The match represents another benchmarking opportunity after the team’s tour of Spain last month. Fourteen of the 23-member Spain squad have been tipped for the opener against Japan, including four of the five players who made their Hong Kong debuts in Valladolid.

Despite having one eye on Hong Kong’s historic first appearance at a world championship, Hull is demanding results from her side in the Asian campaign.

“This is international rugby and we are representing Hong Kong, so results matter. We started to close the gap over the week against Spain and now we need to do that against Japan.”

Hong Kong dropped its last outing against Japan in last December’s world cup qualifier, 20-8, improving on 39-3 and 30-8 losses in last spring’s Asian championships.

“This is a big test of our progress for the world cup,” said Hull.

“There has been a clear message to the girls selected about accountability and we’re putting a premium on efficiency and accuracy. Each game is about getting us one step closer to how we want to play on the world stage.

“While the squad has really come into their own over the past six months, at this stage of the campaign, there are no second chances. The players have to be accountable, plain and simple. They know and accept that.

“While everyone has bought into the team ethos and understands that we are going to need every last 28 of the women we bring to Ireland, there are some really hungry players who are disappointed with this selection,” Hull warned.

Both Hong Kong and Japan advanced from December’s triangular with Fiji to their first ever World Cups at fifteen-a-side in August. Since then Japan have also been busy preparing for the world championship, splitting matches against Wales and Ireland in June.

“Japan have had some good results and they should be proud of themselves. They are a good team and are very disciplined.

“To put them off their game we need to start fast and get into the mix early on. That fits with our objectives for the Rugby World Cup, to play much faster and be more efficient on the pitch, particularly in the contact area and set piece.

“We really saw how important those things are in Spain and we will be looking to make improvements from our tour last month,” Hull concluded.

HKRU Squad for Japan (8 July 2017 - Women’s Asia Rugby Championship):

1. LAU Nga-wun (Gai Wu), 2. Royce CHAN Leong-sze (HKFC), 3 WONG Yuen-shan (USRC Tigers/EdUHK), 4. CHAN Ka-yan (Gai Wu), 5. TSANG Sin Yan (Kowloon) 6. Christine GORDON (Kowloon), 7. CHAN Tsz-ching (Tai Po Dragons/HKBU), 8. Amelie SEURE (Valley, vice-captain), 9. Lindsay VARTY (USRC Tigers), 10. LEE Tsz-ting (Gai Wu/HKBU), 11. LAU Sze-wa (Valley), 12. Rebecca THOMPSON (Valley), 13. Adrienne GARVEY (Valley, captain), 14. Laurel CHOR Lik-fung (Valley), 15. Aggie POON Pak-yan (Gai Wu), RESERVES: 16. HO Hoi-lam (Gai Wu), 17. CHEUNG Shuk-han (Valley), 18. PUN Wai-yan (Gai Wu/EdUHK), 19. Winnie SIU Wing-ni (USRC Tigers), 20. TSANG Sin-yan (Kowloon), 21. HO Jessica Wai-on (USRC Tigers), 22. Rose HOPEWELL-FONG Siu-lan (HKFC), 23. Kelsie BOUTTLE (Valley/ICHK).