07th Jul 2024

Hong Kong China Men’s XVs narrowly lost their South America tour opener against Chile on Saturday 6 July at Estadio Fiscal de Talca 22-17 but Head Coach Andrew Douglas has highlighted some key learnings from facing much more physical and direct opposition than they are used to in the Asia Rugby Championship.

This was only the second ever test between Hong Kong China and Chile (known as Los Cóndores) with the Asian side having won the only previous encounter 13-6 in 2007.  

Despite trailing 22-3 at the interval, Hong Kong China fought back strongly in the second half, eventually coming up just short with a score of 22-17 to the hosts. The loss brought to an end an eight-match win streak for Hong Kong China’s men. 

Head Coach Andrew Douglas said of the game of two halves, “It was an interesting game from our point of view. In the first half, we were under pressure and we didn’t get a lot of possession or territory and we had to absorb a lot. Chile were also physical and were very good at controlling where the game was going to be played and we didn't respond as well as we wanted to and didn't really play any rugby in that first half.”

He added that the score was only 8-3 to the hosts in the 37th minute but they conceded twice before the break for Chile to lead 22-3. Douglas commented, “I think if we had gone into the break at 8-3 it would have been a very different match.”

Thankfully there were improvements in the second half with Hong Kong China keeping Chile scoreless while closing down the deficit. 

“There were some great learnings from that, and certainly in the second half, we started to play our rugby and get more possession and territory. I thought our defensive lineout was outstanding and we disrupted their ball a fair bit too. I think we can take some confidence from that but it might also be a reflection of coming off an Asia Rugby Championship where we were not really put under any pressure. Chile are an experienced team who play together a lot and in the Super Rugby Americas, so it was a game you kind of would like to play again next weekend,” concluded Douglas.

Chile, who made their debut at the Rugby World Cup in 2023, were placed one spot above Hong Kong China in the world rankings (23rd and 24th respectively) before the game.

Adapting To The Physicality & Environment

Before the tour, the Head Coach had said that he expected the tour to be a step up and this was confirmed after the game in Chile. “Generally, the South American teams play a set-piece-based game where they like to grind you and they are very direct at you which is different to the Asia Rugby Men’s Championship, where teams prefer to come at you laterally and play with a bit more speed.  

These guys are not worried about the speed of play but more concerned with the breakdown, putting you into corners and trying to grind you a bit more.”

He also commented on the amount of time the ball is in play, “Our ball in play against Chile was 35 minutes and the average for the ARMC 2024 was something like 23 minutes. The players are more accurate and the skills and execution are better so it's great for us to face this and adapt to this style of rugby.”

Touring Is Creating Key Bonds and Learning Opportunities

Douglas said the entire squad have been great thus far on tour. “The boys have been great to tour with and they are an excellent group to take away, they are in good spirits and enjoy each other’s company. They are loving South America and the different experiences.

Everyone is getting along really well and it is all about that time spent together and the combinations, understanding each other and the demands there are from each position. These tours are great for that and for us coaches to find out more about the players.”

Paraguay Up Next

The squad will travel to Paraguay and then Brazil over the next two weekends to complete the tour in South America.

On the threats Paraguay will pose, Douglas said, “We know Paraguay has a big forward pack and a very strong front row. They will want to scrum us and challenge our set piece. Similar to Chile, they will try to be direct and batter us so we will have to go with our style and Hong Kong China identity and try to move them around a little bit and play with a bit more speed. 

For us, it is about getting used to that environment and that pressure and adapting to it during the game. We are looking forward to getting over there and facing a big physical team and challenging ourselves again.”

Douglas also added that the side will have to be a bit smarter in adapting to the officiating as the referee's interpretation around areas such as the breakdown is different and they will need to adjust.

This article was posted in collaboration with our good friends at RugbyAsia247 – check them out for all the latest Asia Rugby news!