How can Hong Kong women turn around a 58-0 mauling by Japan? Coach Jo Hull opts for experience
Christy Cheng and Natasha Olson-Thorne are back in the side to add steel in final game before their historic first appearance at Rugby World Cup
Hong Kong women’s coach Jo Hull has opted for experience after “the experiment” for Saturday’s crucial clash against Japan in the Asia Rugby Championship.
After a 58-0 mauling in Japan last weekend when new combinations failed to deliver, Hull has reverted to the tried and trusted for the return game at King’s Park.
The match is also Hong Kong’s last competitive outing before they make their historic first appearance at a Rugby World Cup next month in Ireland.
“This is a crucial hit-out, absolutely,” Hull said. “This is our last international before the World Cup and whether we win or lose, we want to perform the way we know we can.
“Last week was about getting players game time and looking at some new combinations, but this week we have gone with an experienced squad.
“It isalso a performance group; a lot of these senior players have been performing to standards throughout the build-up, not just in games but in training.
“It will be good to have players like Christy [Cheng Ka-chi] and Natasha [Olson-Thorne] back.”
Hull expects to need every bit of that experience with Japan, coming off a big win last week, likely to further bolster their squad with their own senior players.
“We are prepared for that,” said Hull. “It has been a massive refocus week for us, and I’m proud of the level of accountability in the camp.
“We have worked a lot on eliminating the high number of individual errors from last week, even among the senior players.
“We’ve had a good week of training and have been replicating a World Cup week where we will be looking to back up again for another big performance like we will have to do in Ireland.
“But all of that doesn’t count for anything, it’s about putting it out on the pitch and the players are aware of that.”
Captain Chow Mei-nam leads an experienced group of forwards with the front row anchored by props Wong Yuen-shan and Lee Ka-shun, with Karen So at hooker.
Chow will assume her normal second row spot, partnering with Amelie Seure, who moves into the tight five to create room for Christine Gordon at number eight.
Gordon will pair with sevens captain Christy Cheng Ka-chi and Chan Tsz-ching at flanker, while Mak Ho-yee gets a run at scrum half and will combine with Rose Hopewell-Fong at fly half.
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“Ho-yee can inject a bit of pace into the game which is something we are after,” said Hull.
Out wide, an all-sevens line-up of backs will also be keen to perform with vice-captain Adrienne Garvey pairing with Natasha Olson-Thorne in the centres, and Aggie Poon Pak-yan and Chong Ka-yan on the wings and Colleen Tjosvold at fullback.
The bench sees more experience in depth with Royce Chan Leong-sze, Cheung Shuk-han, Lau Nga-wun and Pun Wai-yan as the front row reserves, giving Hull plenty of options as the squad looks to solidify their performance in the problematic set piece.
Scrum half Sham Wai-sum joins Lee Tsz-ting and Ivy Kwong Sau-yan as back reserves, alongside Kelsie Bouttle, who is looking to earn a second appearance after making her debut last weekend.