23 May 2019

The Hong Kong Women’s national team will play Fiji and Samoa in a triangular tournament this week in Fiji.  The tournament will serve as a handy fill-in for the squad, midway its 2021 Women’s Ruby World Cup qualification cycle, after the 2019 Asia Rugby Championship was cancelled. Hong Kong will play Fiji on Friday, 24 May, (12.00pm) and Samoa on Tuesday, 28 May (11.00am, times are Hong Kong time).

After becoming the first Hong Kong team to qualify for a Rugby World Cup, in 2017, the squad is intent on returning in 2021. Hong Kong will need to win next year’s Asian championship outright for direct entry, or finish second to qualify for a four-team repechage, with the winner advancing to the world cup.

Should Hong Kong be forced into the repechage it is likely they would face either Fiji or Samoa, the top two teams in Oceania who have similar pathways to the 2021 World Cup. As such, the upcoming tests are an ideal opportunity for the team to prepare on multiple levels, says coach Jo Hull.

“We are two years into our four-year Rugby World Cup cycle now, so this is a great opportunity for us to blood more new players. We have managed to build some depth in the programme now and this is a great chance to get more exposure at international level.”

“With no ARC this year, we wanted to take the opportunity to play teams outside Asia. Previously, we have been touring in Europe, playing Spain and Wales, which was a massive step up for us. Now we are looking for competition with teams like Fiji and Samoa, for their physicality, but also because it leads in to the World Cup qualifier.

“Next year, our target is to finish first in the ARC, but if we go to the repechage we would be playing teams like Fiji and Samoa so this suits our objectives on several levels.”

Chief amongst those objectives is continued development of a growing but young squad and increasing opportunities for the players, with nine new caps included in the tour to Fiji: Riva Brill, Abigail Chan, Chan Hui-tung, Rachel Fong, Jasmine Fung Hoi-ching, Iris Lam, Liu Yuen-ting, Zoe Smith and Wong Kai-ying.  Most of the new faces are from the next wave of players emerging from the Union’s intensive age grade programmes with eight of the new caps from this group, the exception being Valley back Zoe Smith. The group departs with a win behind them, after 20 of the 26-strong squad were selected for Hong Kong’s tour of Singapore earlier this month, including six of the debutantes.

“This is a really young squad with a lot of up and coming players from the National Age Grade programmes. These girls have all been playing at Premiership level domestically and we were pleased to see how hard they trained and worked for the results on that Singapore tour.”

With the Women’s sevens team also preparing for upcoming competition, overlapping with the fifteens tour, only Colleen Tjosvold, Jessica Ho and Pun Wai-yan have been included from that squad, both confirming and testing the depth in the local women’s game.

“It just creates more opportunities for other players in the wider squad, and gives us a chance to really look at a lot more of the group.” “While we still have a lot of work to do, this shows that that strength in depth is coming in Hong Kong and will bolster the national team and women’s rugby as a whole,” said Hull.

Hull is keeping her expectations in line given the tour will provide a real stress test for the newcomers, “We don’t know what to expect, we just have to see how they go,” she said.

Eight debutantes have been given spots in the opening game versus Fiji on Friday, with Brill starting at flanker, Smith featuring on the wing, and Abigail Chan at fullback.  Chan Hiu-tung, Iris Lam, Wong Kai-ying and Liu-Yuen-ting are all included on the bench for the opening test. Also starting from the bench is Rachel Fong, whose older sister Rose Hopewell Fong will start at fly-half.

“We have to do this now,” said Hull.

“We have seen them train, play at club level, and in Asia after Singapore. Now we need to challenge them at the elite international level. These girls have been in the programme for a few years now. This is a natural environment for them and a chance to step up to the next level and they deserve the opportunity,” Hull added.

Hong Kong Squad v Fiji: 1. LAU Nga Wun, 2. Karen SO, 3. CHEUNG Shuk Han, 4. CHOW Mei-nam, 5. TSANG Ching-man, 6. Riva BRILL, 7. Winnie SIU, 8. CHAN Ka-yan, 9. Jessica HO, 10. Rose HOPEWELL-FONG, 11. Zoe SMITH, 12. Colleen TJOSVOLD, 13. Amy PYLE, 14. Bena YU, 15. Abigail CHAN, 16. Iris LAM, 17. Vincci LEUNG, 18. CHAN Hiu-Tung, 19. PUN Wai-yan, 20. WONG Kai-ying, 21. Rachel FONG, 22. LIU Yuen-ting, 23. Kelsie BOUTTLE


Hong Kong Touring Squad: Kelsie BOUTTLE, Riva BRILL*, CHAN Hiu-tung*, CHAN Ka-yan, CHEUNG Shuk-han, CHOW Mei-nam, LAU Nga-wun, Iris LAM Tim-yeung*, Vincci LEUNG Wing-yi, Charlotte MYRANS, PUN Wai-yan, Winnie SIU Wing-ni, Dr Karen SO Hoi-ting (Captain), TSANG Ching-man, WONG Kai-ying*, YIP Cho-kwan, Abigail CHAN*, RACHEL FONG*, Jessica HO Wai-on, Rose HOPEWELL-FONG, FUNG Hoi-ching*, LIU Yuen-ting*, Amy PYLE, Zoe SMITH*, Colleen TJOSVOLD, Bena YU Bo-yan.

* New caps