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Women's Rugby World Cup 2017

From club rugby in England to the world stage, Jo Hull is still keeping it fun for Hong Kong X-factor Rose Hopewell-Fong

The pair first met when the 27-year-old moved to the United Kingdom to study over 10 years ago and the fly half credits her coach with playing a pivotal role in her career

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 August, 2017, 5:49pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 August, 2017, 12:05pm

Hong Kong’s 98-0 loss to Canada wasn’t the ideal start to their Women’s Rugby World Cup campaign, but fly half Rose Hopewell-Fong isn’t worried about the mood in the camp suffering too much.

With a number of tough games to come – starting with Sunday’s clash with New Zealand – Hong Kong will need to keep their heads up and according to Hopewell-Fong, it starts at the top with coach Jo Hull.

The pair have a long history that dates back to when Hopewell-Fong moved to England for school as a 16-year-old.

“She keeps it fun,” 27-year-old Hopewell-Fong says. “She was actually the person we liaised with when I first decided I wanted to go to England.

“We were looking at which academies in England had girl’s rugby for a 16 year old. We had heard about East Durham and Houghall College and Jo was the coach of the women’s side.

“The summer before I started I went and met her, but when I started at the college she had actually left, but she ended up being my club coach for the team I joined alongside school.”

It was at this club side – Darlington Mowden Park – where the pair’s relationship thrived and Hopewell-Fong credits Hull with playing a pivotal role in her career.

Watch: Highlights of Hong Kong’s World Cup clash with Canada

“It’s been good to see her journey,” Hull says. “There are only a few players that have the X-factor and when she’s on, she does have it.

“She can be a real attacking threat when she has that self belief and that confidence and she goes for it. She also offers us a level of control and maturity.”

It’s this X-factor that saw Hopewell-Fong feature in England’s under-20 set-up before a knee injury and the advent of Hong Kong’s professional sevens programme contributed to a move back aged 21.

“I decided that on finishing university and coming out still injured, that I wanted to return home and I knew that the HKRU [Hong Kong Rugby Union] were going to give me support in terms of being a professional sevens player, as well as being with my family again,” she says.

Gutsy Hong Kong fall 98-0 to relentless Canada in Women’s Rugby World Cup opener

It wasn’t too long before the pair were reunited though, with Hull taking charge of Hong Kong in 2015.

“When I heard our 15s coach was leaving, I told her there might be an opportunity and she had already been contacted by someone at the HKRU asking her to apply for the job,” Hopewell-Fong says.

“I was really excited to hear she was coming back because I knew she was a brilliant coach.”

And while rugby is obviously the focus for much of Hong Kong’s trip to Ireland, Hopewell-Fong is hopeful of squeezing in a catch-up with some old teammates.

No respite for Hong Kong after Canada World Cup thrashing as ‘10 per cent tougher’ match against New Zealand looms

“Jo and I were talking, we have actually got quite a few of our club mates coming to watch, so we are hopefully going to have time to catch up with them for a drink,” she says.

“That would be amazing, I haven’t seen them since I was 21.”