09 Aug 2017

Hong Kong coach Jo Hull is looking for a mix of relentless defence and free-flowing attack in her side’s Women’s Rugby World Cup opener against Canada on Thursday morning (Hong Kong time).

Hong Kong have settled into their base at University College Dublin since arriving in Ireland on Saturday and Hull is expecting a baptism of fire against the third-ranked Canadians.

“They’re [Canada] going to come out the blocks, I think there is quite a lot of pressure on them to put in a performance in their first game,” she said.

“We’re expecting them to be very fast and we know their back row and centre combinations are very physical.

“I think they will hit the ground running, they have obviously had quite a good build-up to this being in New Zealand so they will know what they want to achieve out of this tournament.”

Minimising Canada’s scoring opportunities will be the first priority for Hong Kong and Hull is confident that with the correct application, her charges are capable of holding their own.

“I think mindset-wise the girls are ready for the game, we’re ready for it but it is the application that is really going to be the challenge,” Hull said.

“They’ve got the knowledge, it’s just that application and being able to play with them for 80 minutes against a team like Canada that like to run with the ball in hand.

“Our defence is capable of standing up to it and it is important that we get it right with our tackles and how quickly we can reload.

“For sure it’s going to be a challenge but that is what we have worked on and that is what our focus is ultimately going to be on.”

While defence is obviously crucial, Hull doesn’t want her players to go into their shells and is confident they can score some points of their own.

“If we get the ball in hand and we can run it, I really back our back three and some of our centre combinations [to have an impact],” she said.

“My challenge to the players is to get the crowd on side though our actions and that’s where our warrior mindset comes in in terms of leaving a legacy of getting up.

“Yes we might get smashed, but then we get up. Our players are strong and fit and we are certainly not going into this being passive in what we do.”

Adrienne Garvey and Natasha Olson-Thorne will pair up in the centres, with Laurel Chor Lik-fung and 18-year-old Kelsie Bouttle starting on the bench. Hull recognises them all as assets to the team.

“Having that strength of Rocky [Garvey] and Tash is key for us, that combination works nicely for us in terms of how we want to play and also their experience together,” Hull said.

“Kelsie is just such a young raw player that I think she might go quite well against Canada.”

Captain Chow Mei-nam, tighthead prop Lee Ka-shun and hooker Karen So Hoi-ting will lead the way in a forward pack that Hull is looking for an even contribution from.

Hull feels her side may be able to get on top in the set piece, highlighting the scrum and the line-out as areas her forwards must target.

“I think potentially our set piece might go okay in terms of the scrum and in terms of our height,” she said. “I think also the breakdown could go in our favour a little bit.

“Shun is key, she’ll hold the scrum for us pretty well, in fact our whole front row is important.

“The back row is going to be absolutely instrumental, really all the forwards have got a massive job because if we don’t get any stability and we don’t get any go-forward in the scrum it’s going to be a difficult day for us.”

Hong Kong have been soaking up the atmosphere of the event since arriving, with Hull keen to ensure they go home with memories that will last a lifetime.

“I asked the girls ‘how do you find it?’ and they said it’s just the most amazing thing we’ve ever done and we haven’t even played yet,” Hull said.

“Just the atmosphere, the respect between the teams, the whole thing is really special.

“We know that the games are going to be tough but for some of these girls this is going to be a moment they will never forget,” she concluded.

HKRU team for Match 1 versus Canada, at Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017:

1. WONG Yuen-shan, 2. SO Hoi-ting, Karen, 3. LEE Ka-shun, 4. CHAN Ka-yan, 5. CHOW Mei-nam (captain), 6. CHENG Ka-chi, Christy, 7. CHAN Tsz-ching, Agnes, 8. Amelie SEURE, 9. HO Wai-on, Jessica, 10. Rose HOPEWELL-FONG Siu-lan, 11. CHONG Ka-yan, 12. Natasha OLSON-THORNE, 13. Adrienne GARVEY (vice captain), 14. POON Pak-yan, Aggie, 15. Colleen TJOSVOLD, 16. SIU Wing-ni, Winnie, 17. LAU Nga-wun, Tammy, 18. PUN Wai-yan, 19. Christine GORDON, 20. TSANG Sin-yan, 21. MAK Ho-yee, Chloe, 22. Kelsie BOUTTLE, 23. CHOR Lik-fung, Laurel.