SAR to cross Gulf for Asian success

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 March, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 March, 2000, 12:00am

Karen Williams knows a thing or two about the Arabian Gulf team whom the SAR will face in this month's Hong Kong Women's Rugby Sevens.

For starters, she says, the Middle Eastern side will field expatriates based in the region.

'I would imagine it would be a little difficult for the local women to play rugby,' said Williams. She knows from first-hand experience as she used to teach in Kuwait before arriving in Hong Kong in 1997.

That year, Williams played for the Arabian Gulf at the first Hong Kong Women's Sevens.

Having moved here, the DeA player has quickly made a name for herself and last year she captained Hong Kong and was tipped to lead the side again for the March 23-24 tournament.

But fate has intervened. A broken collarbone last week will see Williams sidelined.

'I'm gutted. It snapped in two places and will take six weeks to heal. But I will be there cheering Hong Kong on,' said Williams at yesterday's draw.

The Gulf side is one of six unions from the Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU) which will compete for the inaugural Asian Sevens Championship.

With the blessing of the International Rugby Board - and a handout of GBP15,000 - this year's 12-team tournament will also incorporate the Asian Championship.

In its bid to nurture the game across the globe, the IRB has decided that the best vehicle is sevens. Already the men's game has gathered momentum, with unions from Andorra to Zimbabwe playing the abbreviated game.

Now it is the turn of the women.

'The IRB knows that women's rugby has an important part to play in the development of the game,' said Jamie Scott, secretary-general of ARFU.

Although the ARFU has 12 member unions, only nine have women's teams. But China, South Korea and Taiwan will not be playing here.

The six Asian sides have been split equally into the two pools headed by defending champions New Zealand and last year's runners-up, the USA.

After the preliminary round, the top two in each pool will play for the Cup, the next two for the Plate and the bottom two teams for the Bowl.

'The Asian Cup final will be between the top two Asian teams in each pool,' said Jarrad Gallagher, coach of the Hong Kong women's squad.

Draw Pool A: New Zealand, Samoa, Wales, Hong Kong, Thailand, Arabian Gulf.

Pool B: USA, Australia, Netherlands, Japan, Kazakhstan, Singapore.