25 Aug 2017

Hong Kong is looking to end its debut appearance at the Women’s Rugby World Cup on a high note with their final match coming against familiar foes Japan tomorrow, (kick-off at 19.00 Hong Kong time).

Coach Jo Hull’s squad has shown consistent improvement match by match and will be looking to claim their first win at the world championships on their final outing.

“We are going into this game like it is our World Cup final,” said Hull from Ireland.

“This World Cup we have had an opportunity to measure ourselves against the best in the world and now we have an opportunity to measure ourselves once again against one of the best teams in Asia.

“Playing Japan gives us a real chance to measure how much we have improved and whether we can come out of the World Cup as the top team in Asia. And that’s a real test of our character, so in that respect it’s great to play against them,” Hull added.

Japan beat Hong Kong heavily across both legs of the Women’s Asia Rugby Championship in July in what was both sides’ final international warm-up for the World Cup. That presents an ideal opportunity for Hull and the squad to benchmark their growth over the past three weeks.

“We massively underperformed against Japan the last time out and now we have a chance to set that straight and the girls are very excited about that opportunity.

“Japan won’t be underestimating us. They know that we have improved massively over the World Cup and they have as well. Japan has had some really impressive performances against Ireland, Australia and France. They have shown what we have known for a long while; they’re young, talented and play at pace.

Hull is calling on the squad to give one last massive effort in their fifth game at the World Cup.

“After Spain, we have made some changes to get some fresh legs back into the squad, including bringing Royce [Chan] and Chrissy [Christine Gordon] in to give us some go-forward.

“We need an even bigger performance out of the girls at the breakdown than against Spain and we have to be clinical, particularly in eliminating our own errors and improving our tackling,” said Hull.

Hull believes her side is now battle-hardened and that their experience in Ireland has drawn them even closer together.

“The girls have been great. It has been a big three weeks for us. They are calm and focused but I can sense a bit more excitement about this game and maybe a bit of emotion as well as it is our last match and the experience here has really been incredible.

“They want to play, but most of all they want to get that first win together and for each other. They realize there is no second chance now, there is no next game and that is fueling them,” Hull added.

Hull has been working to hone and channel that energy

“We are not losing our focus. Everything is about consistency. We need to be consistent and clinical. If we make a mistake, Japan will be underneath the posts, so we have got to execute to get the result that they have been working so hard for,” Hull added.

Hull has made three changes up front with hooker Royce Chan, Hong Kong’s most capped women’s international entering the world cup, joined by Lau Nga-wun and the ever-reliable Lee Ka-shun in the starting front row. Hull has also retained the lock pairing of captain Chow Mei-nam and Chan Ka-yan and flankers Christy Cheng Ka-chi and Chan Tsz-chang with Gordon the only change to the back row.

Hull has also kept faith in her starting halfback duo from the Spain test, with scrumhalf Chloe Mak Ho-yee and Rose Hopewell-Fong looking to inject pace into the attack. Emerging star Kelsie Bouttle will join Natasha Olson-Thorne in a hard tackling centre pairing, while Chong Ka-yan continues to own the no 11 sweater on the left wing. The versatile Adrienne Garvey returns to fullback after starting at centre against Spain, with Ivy Kwong Sau-yan getting the start on the right wing.

Winnie Siu, Karen So and Pun Wai-yan will provide the front row depth once again, with Seure rounding out the forwards reserves. Young halfbacks Jessica Ho Wai-on and Lee Tsz-ting will cover nine and ten while Colleen Tjosvold will support the back three.