26 Nov 2019

A year after touring Europe with 14 new caps, the Hong Kong, China women’s rugby team are embarking on another continental journey, this time with ten new players, and a first time opponent, the Netherlands. Hong Kong will play the Netherland in a two-test series with games this evening, Tuesday, 26 November (kick-off at 19.45 in Amsterdam), and Saturday, 30 November at the National Rugby Centre Amsterdam stadium. 

Hana Lane, Hebe Talas, Maelle Picut, Suzanne Sittko, Roshini Turner, Au King-to, Jasmine Fung Hoi-ching and Lara Schats are all set to earn their first caps for Hong Kong on tour, as are two senior sevens squad members in Vivian Poon Hoi-yan and Chloe Chan.

They join a number of players earning just their second or third caps, including four who debuted this time last year, as Hong Kong continues to build depth for next March’s qualification tournament for Rugby World Cup 2021.

Next spring’s Asia Rugby Women’s championship will double as the Asian qualifier with the winner between Japan, Kazakhstan and Hong Kong advancing directly to the 2021 Rugby World Cup, while the runners-up will proceed to an international repechage tournament for the final spot.

“It is quite a new combination for this squad with some exciting young players coming through,” said national coach and Head of Women’s Rugby Performance at the HKRU Jo Hull, “but this is a group that we have been working with over the last couple of years and now they are getting an opportunity to earn first caps and show what they can do at the international level.”

Surrounding the newcomers is a core of seasoned players with nearly a third of the group veterans of Hong Kong’s historic first ever Rugby World Cup appearance in 2017. 

 “With our RWC experienced players, there is a nice balance and a good energy in the group. The senior players understand what it takes and are challenging the newer players to reach that standard, while the new players challenge and add a lot of energy” Hull noted.

With tests against Spain and Wales last year, Hull has opted for a different challenge in 2019 against the Netherlands in what is a purpose-built game for Hong Kong.

“The Netherlands are very physical and very athletic, with strong ball carriers and also like to attack out wide, that kind of play mimics what we expect from both Japan and Kazakhstan in our Asian qualifier. Very fast and very physical, the ideal preparation for Japan and Kazakhstan,” noted Hull.

Eight of the new caps will play in the first test: Turner, Sittko, Schats, Poon, Picut, Au, Fung and Talas with Turner and Sittko starting in the forwards and Schats and Poon at centre and fullback respectively.

Ahead of the test series the side has had a weeklong training camp in Scotland, taking advantage of a rare opportunity to come together as a group and continue their preparations in a high performance international environment.

The camp included a closed-door training match with a Scottish Select team and a joint training with the Scottish national team before the squad departed for Holland for the test series.

“It has been a really valuable week. This time we have together is hugely instrumental for us to prepare not just the players, but the management team as well, for Rugby World Cup qualification.

“This is the group we want to bring to the Rugby World Cup in 2021 and 2025, and we need to make sure we are ready now. We are focused heavily on building our strength in depth and that includes our management teams as well,” said Hull.

Former men’s U20s sevens coach, and current coach of defending women’s grand champions USRC Tigers, Fan Shun-kei has joined the management team as Lead Coach on tour, while ex Hong Kong hooker Royce Chan is coaching the forwards and Gai Wu Falcons headman Lai Yiu-pang is the backs coach.

Hull noted that the Scotland trip is nearly as important as the test series for Hong Kong’s wider goal.

“It’s not often that we get to spend this amount of time together as a squad. This is the kind of experience that we need to prepare for Rugby World Cup Qualification. We have to expose these players and coaches to the types of challenges we may encounter in March and hopefully at the Rugby World Cup.

“This week is imperative for us to succeed in our Rugby World Cup goal, and we are maximising every minute of it, every day,” Hull added.

Hong Kong Tour squad (28 pax)

Dr Karen SO Hoi-ting (Captain), LAU Nga-wun, Vincci LEUNG Wing-yi, Winnie SIU Wing-ni, Iris LAM Tim-yeung, Riva BRILL, CHAN Hiu-Tung, CHEUNG Shuk-hang, Hana LANE*, LEE Ka-shun, Maelle PICUT*, Suzanne SITTKO*, Roshini TURNER* AU King-to*, Chloe CHAN*, FUNG Hoi-ching*, TSANG Ching-man, CHOW Mei-nam, Jessica EDEN, Jessica HO Wai-on, Sarah LUCAS, Lara SCHATS*, Vivian POON Hoi-yan*, Amy PYLE, Aileen RYAN, Zoe SMITH, Hebe TALAS*, Bena YU Bo-yan.* Hong Kong debut.

Squad v Netherlands Match I: 26 Nov

1. LAU Nga-wun; 2. Dr Karen SO Hoi-ting (Captain); 3. CHEUNG Shuk-han; 4. TSANG Ching-man; 5. Roshini TURNER; 6. SIU Wing-ni; 7. Riva BRILL, 8. Suzanne SITTKO, 9. Jessica HO Wai-on; 10. Aileen RYAN; 11. Jessica EDEN; 12. Lara SCHATS, 13. Amy PYLE, 14. Bena YU Bo-yan; 15. POON Hoi-yan; 16. Iris LAM; 17. Vincci LEUNG; 18. LEE Ka-shun; 19. CHOW Mei-nam; 20. Maelle PICUT; 21. AU King-to; 22. FUNG Hoi-ching; 23. Hebe TALAS.