HK rugby women's team to beef up defence to secure World Cup berth

Squad must strengthen defence as they target first-ever World Cup spot in Moscow

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 September, 2012, 3:03am

The emphasis will be on defence as Hong Kong seek to qualify for the Women's World Cup Sevens in Moscow next year, and captain Royce Chan Leong-sze believes the goal is within reach.

The women have higher hopes of playing at the World Cup for the first time after their victory over mainland China and a fourth-place finish in the first leg of the Asia-Pacific Women's Sevens in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

This was played alongside the HSBC Asian Sevens Series, where the Hong Kong men's team finished as runners-up to Japan.

"We beat China and Thailand, two teams we have always struggled against, and this has raised the confidence of the whole side," Chan said.

"We are determined to qualify for Moscow. We are playing more as a unit now [rather] than just relying on one or two individuals. If we can improve our defence, we are in with a real chance.

"We will be looking to build on this performance in Shanghai, which will be our final tournament before the Asian qualifiers."

Coach Kane Jury warns that plenty of work needs to be done - especially to shore up a patchy defence - if Hong Kong win one of three spots available at the qualifying tournament in Pune, India, on October 6-7.

"We are good with ball in hand, but we need to work more on our defence if we are to qualify," said Jury. "This will be our main area of focus at the Shanghai Sevens [September 22-23]. We need to tighten things up."

Hong Kong were beaten 26-17 in the third place play-off last weekend by Papua New Guinea but not before making waves by reaching the semi-finals thanks to a landmark win over Asian sevens champions China, plus another win over 2010 Asian Games bronze medallists Thailand in the preliminary rounds.

Hong Kong national coach Dai Rees said: "It was a marvellous performance, the best by a mile [during] my time here.

"This bodes well for our hopes of qualifying for the World Cup, which would be a massive accomplishment. This team has made huge strides in the past 12 months," Rees said.

Three teams will book their World Cup berths in India, but the task has been made harder with the International Rugby Board deciding to include the third-placed finisher from the Asia-Pacific competition. This will see Fiji also in the running for a ticket.

"A lot will depend on the luck of the draw," Rees said. "If we can avoid meeting any of the top sides like China or Kazakhstan early on, our path into the knockout stages will be easier."