30 Nov 2015

With the dust barely settling on the men’s international test window, the Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) has announced that the National Women’s XV will play a two-test series versus Spain in Madrid next month (15-21 December).

Tonight’s penultimate round of the HKRU Women’s Super Series will be an important part of the selection and preparation process for what will be Hong Kong’s first women’s test matches versus non-Asian competition.

The Super Series is part of HKRU Women’s Performance Manager - and new Hong Kong Women’s XVs coach - Jo Hull’s goal to enhance the standard of the game both domestically and internationally.

The Super Series is an exciting new concept that sees the top players from the Premiership clubs, alongside invited players from the National Age Grade set-up, seeded into invitational sides, the Scorpions and Vipers, to play each other across three rounds this season.

Saturday’s “re-match” of the Scorpions - Vipers tie from round one will feature a new wrinkle as the sides have been mixed from the opener while several new players have been invited to participate.

The Series is designed primarily to enhance performance at Premiership club level but will ultimately assist in enhancing Hong Kong’s readiness for international rugby says Hull:

“The Super Series is an opportunity for league players to get exposure to a higher level of competition and bridge the gap between domestic and international levels, but it also assists our preparation for test rugby in terms of delivering more performance games across the season and challenging our players to play alongside players from other clubs. It’s a great opportunity for the HKRU to showcase the women’s game in the wider community.”

Hull will use this weekend as an opportunity to trial new player combinations in a match environment and to evaluate some of the new players invited to participate.

In keeping with the aim of enhancing the level of club rugby, each Premiership club coach has been invited to nominate players for the competition. Nominated players do not have to be qualified to play for Hong Kong and can participate even if they have played representative rugby in other countries.

For this weekend’s tie, the Hong Kong Women’s assistant XVs coaches Chris Garvey and Dean Herewini will coach the Vipers and Scorpions respectively. Adrienne Garvey and Lee Ka Shun have been tipped as captain and vice captain respectively for the Scorpions while Chow Mei Nam and Colleen Tjosvold will fill the same roles for the Vipers.

Despite the high numbers of sevens athletes on duty in Tokyo, the sides feature a who’s who of Hong Kong Women’s Rugby. The two teams feature a combined 19 players who have previously represented the Hong Kong Women’s XV, along with a handful of new talent emerging from the National Age Grade programme.

The majority of players have been drawn from the 39-woman training squad established last summer as preparation for Hong Kong’s upcoming international commitments, including the tests against Spain. The training squad will be pared down following a final squad session on Sunday 29 November to a final 25 selected for the Spain Tour, which will be announced next week.

Tonight’s Super Series game will play a key role in the final selection, leaving much at stake for the players from their individual performances. After months of training and two Super Series encounters, Hull is impressed with what she has seen so far.

“I’m impressed with how many players the Series has attracted. All of the premiership clubs are well represented. It’s a real testament to the strength of the Women’s Premiership, which is developing well. I think the Series is helping us achieve our goal of week in, week out intensity at Premiership level.

“I’m really pleased with the standard. Especially considering the Super Series squads don’t train much together. We have really put them under pressure in training and in the Series, which is what we need at this level,” Hull concluded.

Pressure levels are sure to rise when Hong Kong faces its first international XVs opposition next month. Hong Kong has been hampered in its development by the lack of full-strength Women’s XVs teams in Asia with Japan, Kazakhstan and Singapore being their sole opposition for the past few seasons.

“We really want to compete with teams from outside of the region and Spain was a great fit. They finished ninth overall in the most recent Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2014 and we thought they would be a realistic target for us to benchmark ourselves against,” Hull added.

Hong Kong is currently ranked third in Asia behind Japan and Kazakhstan in Women’s XVs with the Asia Rugby Women’s Championship set to kick off in spring. To assist in preparations for that tournament, the final Super Series match will be played after the completion of the Women’s Premiership.