Hong Kong don’t fear Black Ferns as they prepare to mix it with the best at 2017 World Cup
New Zealand, Canada and Wales await Jo Hull’s side in pool A as they go down to Japan 20-8 on Saturday
New Zealand’s mighty Black Ferns await Hong Kong at next year’s Women’s Rugby World Cup after Jo Hull’s side went down fighting in a 20-8 loss to Japan on Saturday.
Hong Kong will also face 2014 runners-up Canada and Wales in pool A and Hull is thrilled that her team will get to play against the best.
“Some of the girls where actually saying that they wanted to be in that pool and they wanted to play the best,” Hull said.
“What a fantastic opportunity these girls are going to have to face a team like the Ferns.”
Hull is not daunted by the prospect of facing a dominant Black Ferns side but admitted the idea might take some time to sink in for her players.
“I think it might blow their minds a little bit,” Hull said.
“If you’d have told me 18 months ago we’d be playing against New Zealand I’d probably have gone ‘wow’.
“They’re another team, they’re 15 players like us, you have got to rise to the challenge and enjoy the energy. Whoever we are going to play we are just going to go and play with our hearts.”
While Hong Kong’s build-up to the World Cup is yet to be officially mapped out, Hull is hoping there will be plenty of opportunities to fine-tune her side after the Christmas break.
“We need to play more test matches,” she said.
“We need to get in as much international and highly competitive rugby as we can between now and the World Cup.
“We will regroup and we will get them together and we will start planning, with a massive focus on strength and conditioning.”
Hull spoke during the week about being the best team in Asia and Saturday’s 12-point loss showed that is becoming closer to a reality.
Just six months after Hong Kong suffered 30-3 and 39-3 losses to Japan in the Asia Rugby Championships, they took it right to their opponent until the final whistle.
“We played a real class team and obviously we wanted to beat them and be number one in Asia but we will keep working on that and that will still be our focus,” Hull said.
“We are disappointed with the loss but I’m happy with phases of that game, particularly in attack and defence.”
Two early tries to Japan hurt Hong Kong and the hosts trailed 10-0 at the break, but refused to give an in inch in the second half.
Adrienne Garvey opened Hong Kong’s account with a penalty to make the score 15-3 after Japan had again crossed.
Another Japan try pushed the margin out to 17 points and for a brief moment a blowout looked possible, but Hong Kong kept fighting and Melody Li Nim-yan crossed for her first ever try for Hong Kong with eight minutes remaining.
“I’ve never thought of us getting into the World Cup,” Li said.
“You always see it on the television, they are really strong teams and now we are one of them. It’s really exciting and I’m looking forward to it.”
Hong Kong looked likely to add to their eight points in the dying stages and although they were unable to, there were plenty of positives on the night as the likes of Natasha Olson-Thorne and Chong Ka-yan turned in top performances.
“Japan got two early tries which hurt us but in the second half we showed momentum, we got some good tempo and I think our bench did a really good job for us,” Hull said.
“We knew Japan were going to come pretty hard but they came really hard today. This is about now playing with the best in the world and that’s what we have got to measure ourselves up against.”