Kelsie Bouttle ready for ride of her life at World Cup despite Hong Kong again falling to Japan
Young centre hopeful of a seat on the plane to Ireland after solid showing in her side’s 60-19 loss in Asia rugby championship
Hong Kong may have gone down to Japan 60-19 on Saturday night in their final Women’s Rugby World Cup warm-up match, but young centre Kelsie Bouttle was still visibly excited by the prospect of a trip to Ireland.
Hong Kong coach Jo Hull will name her 28-strong squad on July 22 and 18-year-old Bouttle is expecting a long week before finding out if she will get to ply her trade on the world stage.
“I’m nervous but it will be good,” she said. “[Playing international rugby is] new for me, so it’s quite intense but it’s a great experience.
“It’s good for me to go to Ireland because I will get that experience, but I’m still young so I have a long way to go.”
Having come through the national age grade programme, Bouttle feels she “adds a bit of a different dynamic” to Hong Kong’s backline owing to her size, with Hull praising her impact on Saturday night.
“She brings a bit of ball carry, she’s pretty physical and when she gets a bit of momentum and when she can get over the gain line, she’ll take us forward a bit,” Hull said.
Bouttle only joined the Hong Kong training squad in May after playing her first season of senior rugby with Valley.
She made her debut in last weekend’s 58-0 loss to Japan and has already learned plenty, with Adrienne Garvey and Rose Hopewell-Fong offering a helping hand.
“She [Garvey] has been playing with me at Valley so she guides me through and Rose is my tour mum,” Bouttle said.
“Going to Japan and playing tonight has been an eye-opener for me and a good motivator for me to develop my rugby.”
It was a tough evening at King’s Park for Hong Kong in the second and final match of the Asia Rugby Women’s Championship, with Japan on top from the outset to ensure Hull has plenty to think about before her side’s World Cup opener against Canada on August 9.
“Obviously we are not happy with that, I think there were some real individual errors that cost us dearly,” said Hull, while highlighting the good work of back-row forward Chan Tsz-ching.
“But there were some positives from last week, I think our commitment and physicality in the contact area [was good]. Getting a few tries in there is a slight consolation.
“Our breakdown area was good and we actually got some momentum in attack so we started to carry the ball a little bit better.”
Despite the loss, Hull won’t be pulling too many surprises come Saturday’s squad announcement.
“We’ve got a good idea of who we want to take and last week and today was about getting those players game time,” she said.
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Hong Kong struggled with handling errors early in the match and it was Japan centre Riho Kurogi who opened the scoring, converting her own try as Japan’s size and speed immediately came to the fore.
Tries to full back Ai Tasaka, second rower Aoi Mimura and No 8 Maki Takano pushed the score out to 24-0 but Hong Kong didn’t drop their heads, with captain Chow Mei-nam finding the line in the 30th minute.
Her try, coupled with winger Aggie Poon Pak-yan’s tough conversion, roused the home crowd but did little to halt Japan’s momentum, with Kurogi again dotting down to give her side a 24-point lead at the break.
Hong Kong struck first in the second half through a crafty effort from winger Chong Ka-yan, but Japan kept coming and tries to Takano and winger Honoka Tsutsumi pushed the score along to 43-14.
Takano found herself in the sin bin soon after and Hong Kong capitalised, with substitute scrum half Sham Wai-sum crossing for her side’s third try.
It was all Japan in the final 20 minutes, with tries to Sachiko Kato, Yumeno Noda and Yuki Oyokawa rounding out a comprehensive victory for the Sakura.