The girls throw their fists into the air in celebration when one of the players touches the ball down on the goal line. It may only be a training session, but the girls take it seriously, shouting tips at their teammates as they play, with friends and parents watching intently from the sidelines. The session is being held at King's Park Sports Ground in Kowloon shortly before Christmas, and about 60 girls from across Hong Kong are getting ready for a New Year's Day match that aims to promote the fun of rugby to other young people. Rugby has long been regarded as a rough-and-tumble sport for men. But it is gaining popularity among young women in Hong Kong who want some excitement and a challenge. And with their forceful tackles, explosive sprints and jostling in the ruck, the teenagers show they are every bit as fit for the game as their male counterparts. For many players, rugby provides a pleasure unlike any other sport. For a start, the shape of the ball makes it hard to control, which is a challenge in itself. The game makes more physical demands on players than most other sports do. Also, frequent body contact and the push and shove of the ruck mean players need to be physically fit and strong. On the other hand, everything in the game requires a high level of co-operation and very precise group tactics - this is a game that is as much about brains as it is about brawn, players will tell you. Keira McCosh, who has been playing rugby for more than 10 years, says she first tried the game after getting a taste of it while watching boys play. To those who think the sport is too tough for girls, Keira says it is simply a question of confidence. She believes that, with training and persistence, anyone can play and enjoy the sport. 'We can do everything as well as the boys do, and that's an important thing I learned from rugby,' she says. Keira, 18, has finished secondary school and is now in her gap year. She has her eyes set on playing for Hong Kong. She says rugby has taught her maturity. 'It teaches persistence and discipline and the importance of teamwork and mutual trust. It also teaches how to better channel anger and handle aggression,' she says. Girls' rugby got started in a small number of schools 12 years ago, and the first rugby club with a team for teenage girls was established four years later. Over the years, more clubs have emerged due to the increasing number of girls with an interest in the sport. In 2007, the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union launched the Girls League. It is divided into three age groups: U14, U16 and U19. To date, there are 12 clubs with youth teams playing in the league, with up to an estimated 300 players. English U20 national team player Rosy Fong was one of the coaches at the pre-Christmas training session. She says rugby can help young girls who are shy or lack confidence, providing skills that are important confidence builders both on and off the pitch. 'At the beginning they might come here just for fun and might not think they can play well, but gradually, with more training and playing experience, they discover they can actually do it. 'The girls come out stronger not only physically, but, more importantly, mentally.'