Super idea: Series boosts Hong Kong’s Women’s Rugby World Cup hopes
Jo Hull’s side face Kazakhstan in a key warm-up Test in November ahead of hosting in December the final qualifiers for next year’s global showpiece
No stone will be left unturned ahead of Hong Kong’s crucial 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup qualifiers in December thanks to the second edition of the Hong Kong Rugby Union Women’s Super Series.
Introduced last year in a bid to create internal representative competition in Hong Kong, the Super Series aids talent identification and development as an entry point for senior performance rugby.
And with Hong Kong hosting the final qualifiers for next year’s Women’s Rugby World Cup in December, this season’s Super Series is a key part of the build-up as national team coach Jo Hull’s side seek what would be a first-ever appearance for Hong Kong at the global event.
“It is critical in our preparation. We can train as much as we want, but we need to see the girls under pressure in a structured situation and in competitive situations and how they respond,” said Hull, with Hong Kong set to face Kazakhstan in a key warm-up Test in November.
“It is an opportunity to challenge some of our more senior players as they are preparing for Kazakhstan and the World Cup qualifier.”
Hong Kong endured a disappointing Asia Rugby Championship (ARC) earlier this year - losing both games to Japan, but all eyes are now on December’s qualifiers with Kazakhstan providing ideal preparation in November.
“The ARC was disappointing, so my big challenge to them this year was to transfer what we are doing in training to the games,” added Hull.
“Kazakhstan is another game, but the date in our diaries is December, so all of these are just extra building blocks.
“The girls really took a lot of pride in the Super Series last season. There is a lot of excitement and the games are very competitive. The girls know they need to perform in the Super Series as they know it is part of their selection into the national team for that final squad that will be selected in November.”
This year’s expanded Super Series began on Friday at King’s Park, involving around 50 players who were nominated by their Premiership clubs, with each side putting forward around six players each.
Two teams will eventually be created for January’s next round of the four dates set aside for the Super Series, which is an increase from three last season.
“The aim is to get two teams made up of our national players and the top Premiership players to compete against each other,” said Hull.
“The objective is to identify new talent. For anyone coming through, the entry point for senior performance rugby is to come through the Super Series. It gives the players the opportunity to play different combinations and face different challenges, which hopefully complement what they do at club level.
“It is also a pathway for the under 20 players to come through if they are at that level. There is an opportunity for them to showcase themselves and be able to play against senior elite players.”
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Kowloon’s Lily Chau Hei-tung was one of the success stories for last year’s Super Series as the 23-year-old centre was eventually added to Hong Kong’s women’s national team training squad after her performance in the Series.
“There are a couple of players who we brought into the senior team from the Super Series and we may not have picked them up at club level or at trials,” added Hull.
This season there will also be a chance for Hong Kong’s senior players to step up and show their coaching capabilities, supported by Hull and assistant coaches Bella Milo and Kevin West as well as senior players Royce Chan Leong-sze and Christine Gordon.
“The coaching will be player-led. We are looking at which senior players will step up and lead the teams, so we are looking at leadership qualities as well,” said Hull. “We are looking at it to be more player-led to empower them on the pitch.”