Rugby World Cup: A million to one? Not quite, but we’re shouting for Hong Kong – and the organisers are too

  • A disastrous opening loss to Germany means a victory over Canada requires the greatest game ever played by Hong Kong rugby
  • It’s not much of a secret that organisers would prefer Hong Kong make it through to next year’s finals in Japan
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 November, 2018, 8:32am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 November, 2018, 12:25pm

So you’re telling me there’s a chance? Yeah, of course, and you don’t need to be Lloyd Christmas from Dumb and Dumber to believe in chances. There is still a chance Hong Kong will beat Canada in Marseilles in the final game of the repechage qualifying tournament to claim the last spot in the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

There’s still a chance they will be on the same pitch as New Zealand’s All Blacks next October 2 down in Oita and a chance they will be in Kobe six days later against the South African Springboks. There is no chance they will beat either team, because we are talking rugby royalty. But just to be on the same pitch as them in a World Cup match, in Asia no less, would be a mind-boggling feat for Hong Kong.

But first you have to beat Canada, which has now become a fairly tall order. Hong Kong has been pointing to this match-up with the Canucks for a while now as a seminal moment in local sport and rightfully so. All they had to do was take care of business in the earlier matches. They didn’t. Their opening loss to a less-than-stellar German squad was devastating for a team that was the top seed for the event. Granted, those seedings seem seriously flawed.

What that loss means is that in the convoluted scoring system for this event, Hong Kong will have to score at least four tries to get a bonus point and make sure they win by at least eight points and deny Canada a bonus point.

Canada destroyed Kenya and disposed of Germany, have been in all eight World Cups and are the type of physically gruelling team, like Germany, that traditionally give the local lads fits.

However, they are far from invincible and it would not be impossible for Hong Kong to play their best game ever and grind out a win. But when you have to dictate the terms of your victory, including scoring four times against a stingy opponent? Yeah, there’s a chance. It’s a little better than a Lloyd Christmas’ million-to-one chance, but not much. That’s reality.

Being held accountable for putting yourself in the position of needing a minor miracle may have upset some in the Hong Kong rugby community, but there is no agenda here. The notion that the media are negative if they don’t blindly support the local side may work in Washington, Beijing and parts of Hong Kong – but not this part of Hong Kong.

2019 Rugby World Cup Repechage: Hong Kong’s rugby machine embarrassed by Germany’s start-up programme

I’ve been around the local sports scene for close to 30 years and have seen first-hand the tireless hours the rugby community has invested in building a culture from the ground up. Thousands upon thousands of kids, both Asian and non-Asians, have been brought into the game and now here we are on the verge of making history. People are going to be peeved at a missed opportunity, it’s only natural.

They are not too happy up here in Japan, either. Naturally, no one involved in the running of the 2019 Rugby World Cup will go on the record and publicly admit this, but it’s not much of a secret that organisers would very much prefer Hong Kong make it through to next year’s finals in Japan.

And well they should. Japan are the only Asian team in the event, they are basically carrying the game on this continent. You can almost hear them pleading in their polite Japanese way: “Sumimasen” – we could use a little help here, guys, and the only other place in Asia with a discernible and quantifiable rugby culture is Hong Kong.

Rugby World Cup repechage: Canada await after Hong Kong romp to easy victory over Kenya

Canada playing Italy in Fukuoka’s 20,000-seat Hakatanomori Stadium next September 26 might be a tough sell. But Hong Kong versus Italy, a possibly competitive match? In Fukuoka, the Liverpool of the east, where there is music on every corner and a direct flight to Hong Kong is only three hours away?

Now that’s a party worthy of a World Cup and a full stadium as well, guaranteed. It’s not like the Hosers don’t know how to party either; being a Canadian, I know first hand.

But, treasonous as it may sound, Canada being in the World Cup would be little more than a curiosity for most Canadians.

Hong Kong in the World Cup would be a local obsession.

So yeah, Lloyd, I’m telling you there’s a chance.