For the love of rugby
For rugby fans, the World Cup is a must-see event. Many of them are happy to travel thousands of kilometres to the host nation to watch games.
Some Hong Kong fans of the sport are no different. This year 10 girls, aged 13 to 16, from French International School (FIS), travelled to New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup last month.
The school has a strong rugby team and the 13-day trip to Wellington was led by coach Rodney Mcintosh and PE teacher Philippe Guillo. It had been organised by the Agency for French Education Abroad, which recruited rugby players from FIS and four other French international schools for a youth tournament during the World Cup.
'The other four teams were boys' teams,' says Viviane Viz, 16, a Lower Six student and captain of the team.
The FIS girls play tackle rugby in Hong Kong. In Wellington, they had to play touch rugby, a less contact-heavy form of the sport in which players don't tackle but simply touch opponents. 'We were going to play against girls' teams from local schools,' Viviane adds. 'So we had to learn and practise touch rugby for the competition.'
Emily Spencer, 15, a Form Five student, concedes that playing touch rugby posed some challenges. 'We had a brief friendly with a Sydney boys' team to warm up,' she says. 'We also had two morning training sessions of touch rugby before the competition.'
Even though they were new to touch rugby, the Hong Kong girls beat two out of the four teams they played against. They finished fourth in the competition. 'We did quite well,' Emily says.
The FIS girls then watched a World Cup match between France and Tonga at the Regional Stadium in Wellington.
'France lost the game 14-19, but they still managed to make it into the final,' Emily notes.
The girls from FIS got into the spirit of the game by cheering for France. They shouted themselves hoarse while waving the country's tricolour.
'The whole city was immersed in rugby,' says Charlotte Thompson, 16, a Form Five student. 'Even supermarkets were selling many rugby-related products.'
The country's All Blacks, who beat France in the final on October 23, were treated as celebrities, she adds.
The Hong Kong students also practised being reporters in New Zealand, where they conducted interviews with members of the local rugby community.
'We were taught some interviewing skills,' says Charlotte Louis, 15, a Form Five student. 'We also learned how to film interviews from a professional cameraman.'
The students interviewed Richard Skelly, the game development manager of New Zealand Rugby Union, and several players.
Now back in Hong Kong, the 10 girls are playing for their school team in a local league competition, putting all they learned in New Zealand to good use.