Hong Kong women’s coach Jo Hull picks experienced squad for shortened Asian campaign
Premiership giants Valley, Gai Wu dominate national 15s selections
Hong Kong head coach Jo Hull on Wednesday named a 28-member squad loaded with players from the HKRU Premiership’s top two clubs as preparations heat up for the truncated 2016 Women’s Asia Rugby Championship (WARC) which kicks off this weekend.
This year’s regional Top Three competition will involve only Hong Kong and Japan – playing a home-and-away series – after perennial contenders Kazakhstan withdrew from the competition for reasons which are still unclear.
The Hong Kong women kick-off their campaign against Japan as the hosts at Hong Kong Football Club on Saturday (13:30), the same venue and day as the men’s ARC test match (16:30) also involving Hong Kong and Japan.
Hull has placed a premium on experience – 18 of the 28 players were in the Hong Kong side which toured Spain last December, six come from league and play-off champions Societe Generale Valley Black Ladies, and 12 play for Grand Championship runners-up CPM Gai Wu Falcons.
Kazakhstan’s WARC withdrawal has made the experience gained from Hong Kong’s two-test tour to Spain even more valuable, according to Hull.
“I think now is when we’re going to see the pay-off from the Spain tour. We have pretty much been working non-stop since we came back with the group and the players have had time to reflect on the tour and the physicality and skill level required in the elite women’s game,” she said.
Five of the 10 players who were not in Spain come from the national sevens set-up with rising stars Nam Ka-man and Lee Tsz-ting joining experienced campaigners Christine Gordon, Lai Pou-fan and Lindsay Varty.
Also among the 13 regular national sevens players in the squad are captain Natasha Olson-Thorne and the influential Rose Fong Siu-lan, who is returning from a lengthy injury absence and could be a massive addition to the side.
“Rose has been working really hard and it is great to have her back,” said Hull, who coached Fong in the United Kingdom when she played for England Schools.
“She is a quality fly-half who can help direct our game on the pitch. Saturday will be her first test match since her injury – and since getting married earlier this month – and I know that she is really looking forward to returning.”
Gai Wu number eight Chow Mei-nam will captain the squad with Valley’s Adrienne Garvey as vice-captain, both reprising their roles from the tour of Spain.
“We’ve seen a huge improvement with the girls in terms of their attitude and commitment, most notably in the work the team has put into their strength and conditioning,” Hull said, adding that confidence is also running high.
“We target to take two from two against Japan, but we fully respect what they bring to the table and we don’t say that lightly. We haven’t beaten Japan for a long time, although we have come close on recent occasions.
“We know Japan will be supremely fit and ferocious in the contact area. The key for us is how we match that physicality and how we manage the game beyond the set piece.
“We want the players to express themselves. The girls are getting much better at playing what is front of them and playing with innovation.”
Hong Kong line-up versus Japan (7 May)
Chow Mei-nam (c), Adrienne Garvey (vc), Natasha Olson-Thorne, Rose Fong Siu-lan, Colleen Tjosvold, Lindsay Varty, Lai Pou-fan, Melody Li Nim-yan, Karen So Hoi-ting, Amelie Seure, Chan Ka-yan, Cheng Ching-to, Christine Gordon, Claire Forster, Ku Hoi-ying, Tammy Lau Nga-wun, Lee Ka-shun, Winnie Siu Wing-ni, Ku Hoi-ying, Ho Wing-lam, Cheng Tsz-ting, Chong Ka-yan, Lau Sze-wa, Mak Ho-yee, Aggie Poon Pak-yan, Sharon Tsang Shin-yuen, Lee Tsz-ting, Nam Ka-man