Hong Kong Sevens

Perfect as Canada romp past Aussies

The Maple Leaf didn't concede a single point in snatching Women's Cup, beating Australia in final while Asian teams have catching up to do

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 March, 2013, 5:26am

Women's rugby took centre stage for 14 fleeting minutes last night: long enough for Canada to deliver a hiding to second-ranked Australia; not long enough for the World Cup champions to regain their composure - or the ball.

Canada, ranked seventh on the sevens circuit, crushed Australia 29-0 and capped a perfect day for the team who didn't give up a point in the whole tournament.

"I'm really happy, it was a complete performance - they didn't let Australia get the ball," Canada coach John Tait said.

I'm really happy, it was a complete performance - they didn't let Australia get the ball
Canada coach John Tait

The lack of possession left little room for Australia to provide any threat. "It was a snowball effect, we lost our composure," said Australia assistant coach Tim Walsh. "If you don't have the ball, you're in a bit of trouble."

Some impressive talent throughout the tournament highlighted how far the women's game has come in recent years, but it also showed the gulf between Asia and the rest of the world.

Kazakhstan were the only team from the region to make the top six, losing 26-5 to fifth-place Plate winners South Africa. The Netherlands finished third and France fourth.

Meanwhile, the bottom half of the scoreboard was dominated by Asian teams: China (7th), Japan (8th), Hong Kong (11th) and Singapore (12th).

While 14 minutes was too short for some Asian teams to allow their talent to shine, for others it was too long to weather the brutal assault from their stronger, faster and more skilful opponents. Tossing aside the Singaporean players like ragdolls, the Netherlands dealt them a punishing 66-0 hammering. "Our very best Asian teams still are not in the top 10 of the world," admits Ross Mitchell, the secretary-general of the Asian Rugby Football Union.

While Mitchell believes Asia has a growing pool of talent - 16 teams across Asia competed in the World Cup qualifiers last year - the region is crippled by a lack of exposure to top competition.

So what's it going to take for Asia to be competitive and on their path to the Olympics?

"More rugby," said Walsh. "To be a professional sporting outfit you've got to do the training, the weights, get the right coaches in and accumulate it all; if you're missing one then you're going to struggle."

Full-time commitment to be competitive against teams like Australia, who live and breathe rugby, was an absolute must, said Netherlands coach Gary Gilbert.

"For a small country like the Netherlands to be able to compete with the world's best we have put a lot of time and effort in," he said.

Taking his team from amateurs to athletes in only two short years has required a centralised training facility and six-day-a-week training. Gilbert has also overseen the instigation of an elite team, a development squad and a high potential programme to capturing athletes from the other sports.

But even getting the formula right does not guarantee an easy road to the Olympics. While the formula for selection for the 2016 Olympics is still to be determined, Netherlands will no doubt have to compete against top teams like Russia, France, England and Spain for a spot. Meanwhile, in Asia, China and Japan are two other examples of teams who have gone from strength to strength after a commitment of resources to their teams.

"They've lost today but rugby women's in China is professional," said Mitchell. "They have the athleticism, they have the sports background, they have the training, they have the facilities. There's no reason at all why they shouldn't be targeting an Olympic medal."

While others believe in China's potential, coach Zhong Hongjun is not convinced. China's progression is a direct result from the government's support, says Zhong, but to move forward, he also agrees his women need more game time. "We need more game interactions with top teams by joining big or small tournaments around the world. In Asia there is not enough."

On home turf, Hong Kong coach Kane Jury agrees a full-time commitment from his players will help bring the region to the next level. Although Hong Kong had a relatively strong performance against Canada, keeping the champions to a respectable 33-0 win, a loss in focus early to Japan resulted in a disappointing 24-5 defeat.

"It wont be until we can really get our hands on these girls and work a little more with them that we can really start to see some results," says Jury.

But once he does, Jury cautions the rest of Asia rugby to watch out. "I think we can get into number two or 3 in Asia easily."