Hong Kong the ‘envy of many unions’ after securing berth in 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup
Dai Rees, HKRU general manager of rugby performance, says the achievement makes a massive statement
Hong Kong are the “envy of many, many unions around the world” after securing a berth in next year’s Women’s Rugby World Cup, says Dai Rees, the HKRU’s general manager of rugby performance.
What looked all but certain last Friday when Hong Kong defeated Fiji was made official on Tuesday night when Japan trounced Fiji 55-0.
“It’s massive for Hong Kong rugby,” Rees said.
“This is a massive, massive statement about what Hong Kong rugby is about across the board. We have maximised our potential and we will be the envy of many, many unions around the world.”
Hong Kong now has nine months to prepare for an appearance at a World Cup that even the most ardent fan would admit has come quicker than expected.
It is the culmination of 18 months of hard work and Rees is pleased that the side was able to take the opportunity presented.
“We saw an opportunity 18 months ago when World Rugby announced the qualification process for the World Cup in 2017,” he said.
“We wanted to make sure we made the most of the opportunity that was presented to us. Did we think at the time we would make 2017? We knew we had a shot at it based on the politics of world rugby.”
Hong Kong have found themselves in this position seemingly overnight due to the absence of Kazakhstan from the qualification process after they pulled out of the Asia Rugby Championship earlier this year.
While Rees admits the experience gained in Ireland will be invaluable, he says it is important that everyone from coaches and players to the public keep their feet firmly on the ground.
“We have to enjoy the experience but we’ve also got to keep things in perspective in terms of the next stage of going into a pool of top quality teams,” he said.
“When we enter the World Cup next year, whoever we play, it will be the fourth time we have ever played a team from outside Asia.”
The enormity of the achievement is not lost on coach Jo Hull, who has seen her group develop out of sight.
“Going to a World Cup is huge, for Hong Kong rugby in general it is great,” she said.
“As soon as we knew that this journey was happening, we as a group knew we could do it. Coming into this job 12 months ago the vision was always to try to get Hong Kong on to the world stage and I think it is testament to the work the players have done.”
Japan and Hong Kong meet on Saturday in the knowledge they are both guaranteed a spot in next year’s showpiece.
However, the final match of the series will be anything but a dead rubber, with the result deciding pool positions for next year’s event.
The overall winner of the qualifying tournament will join hosts Ireland, currently ranked fifth, France (fourth) and Australia (sixth) in a tough pool C.
The runner-up slots in to pool A with 2014 second-place finishers Canada – third in the rankings - top-ranked New Zealand and Wales (10th).
A quick glance at the rankings highlights the enormity of Hong Kong’s achievement, with the side ranked 23rd coming into these qualifiers and only 12 teams competing in the World Cup.