Tough start for Hong Kong women against Maple Leafs
Newly professional squad are hoping to match top-ranked defending champions Canada
You only get better by playing against the best and that is exactly what the newly professional Hong Kong women’s sevens team are up against on Friday as they face top-ranked Canada and Kazakhstan at the 2014 Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Women’s Rugby Sevens.
"We do not have an advantageous draw, let's put it that way," said a diplomatic Anna Richards, Hong Kong's women's coach.
"At 08:30 in the morning, first game, against Canada, the runners-up to the world champs? It's not ideal."
Canada are formidable opponents, having dominated the Hong Kong tournament last year (where they thrashed Australia in the finals), and are ranked third in the IRB Women Sevens World Series. Hong Kong are ranked fourth in Asia.
"But I think it will be good for the girls … that's how you learn. You don't learn by beating teams, you learn by making mistakes."
After the early game against the Maple Leafs, Hong Kong will go into battle against nemesis Kazakhstan - ranked one better as the third team in Asia.
Despite the challenging draw, Richards is not ruling anything out for her newly professional team. "It's 14 minutes - anything can happen."
The team, meanwhile, is excited about making their debut as professionals on home turf. "This is the first local tournament since going full-time. We really want to prove and show how we've improved," says captain Royce Chan Leong-sze. "Our goal is to go the Plate final, but admittedly our pool is quite strong."
The team will look to gain more game experience before focusing on the Asian Games in September.
Also taking part are Ireland, Brazil, France, Ireland, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, South Africa, Kenya, Japan and China.
The tournament is missing several top teams from the IRB Women's Seven Series, including top-ranked Australia and New Zealand, who are preparing for round three of the series in Guangzhou next weekend.