Royce Chan ‘the backbone of Hong Kong women’s rugby’ as Jo Hull names World Cup squad
The 38-year-old forward is excited and relieved to be on the way to Ireland after battling shoulder injuries in recent years
Excitement was the order of the day as Hong Kong coach Jo Hull named her side for the Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland next month, but for veteran hooker Royce Chan Leong-sze there was also a touch of relief.
The 38-year-old has battled shoulder injuries in recent years and has had to work as hard as anyone to earn a trip to Ireland she wasn’t sure would ever come.
“I have dislocated my shoulder twice and after the second time I wasn’t sure if I would make it back,” she said. “I want to be on the pitch and I will look to provide an impact if I’m coming off the bench.”
Chan admits the World Cup could be her last international tournament but wants to give back to the game that provided her direction as a youngster, potentially through coaching.
“Before rugby I wasn’t sure what I was going to do and what I was good at,” she said. “Off the pitch I try to help the young girls believe in their ability to play at this level.”
For Hull, Chan typifies the spirit she wants her team to show at the World Cup.
“She really is the true backbone of Hong Kong women’s rugby in terms of her professionalism, in terms of her mentoring skills and in terms of her pure determination to fight back from injury over the last couple of years and get into that team,” she said.
“She’s coming towards the end of her career and she just takes every day as a blessing when she is in the team.”
Hong Kong’s 28-player squad features a balance of experience, X-factor and youth and will be captained by Chow Mei-nam.
While Hull knows her side’s matches against New Zealand, Canada and Wales – all ranked in the top 10 in the world – will provide the sternest of tests, she is looking beyond results.
“For us it is about trying to find a common goal and that has to go beyond winning and losing and that has to go beyond just performance-related targets and outcomes,” she said, adding that her team is looking to take on a warrior-like mentality.
“No matter what the scores are and no matter how much we’re getting hit, we’re never on the ground, we are always getting picked up and we’re always showing strength, both in character and physically.
“I want other teams to look at us and have instant respect because of the teamship that we have and because of how tight we are.
“We know we are going into a huge battle of adversity and we’re not kidding anyone but I think what this has done is brought our group tighter together.”
Kelsie Bouttle, Agnes Chan Tsz-ching, Mak Ho-yee and Lee Tsz-ting are among the promising youngsters that will bring plenty of spark in a squad that Hull says has a host of players willing to get their hands dirty.
“We have gone with players we know can get us out of trouble, they’re our sturdy players and workhorses, along with a couple of potential X-factor players if they get it right,” Hull said.
“It’s about getting a balance, you have got to a have a team at the World Cup. It’s not just about the players, it’s got to be a team that the combinations work on and off the field and they can carry the team through the three weeks.”
Hong Kong squad
Forwards: Chow Mei-nam (c), Chan Ka-yan, Royce Chan Leong-sze, Chan Tsz-ching, Christy Cheng Ka-chi, Cheung Shuk-han, Christine Gordon, Lau Nga-wun, Lee Ka-shun, Pun Wai-yan, Amelie Seure, Winnie Siu Wing-ni, Karen So Hoi-ting, Tsang Sin-yan, Wong Yuen-shan
Backs: Chong Ka-yan, Laurel Chor Lik-fung, Kelsie Bouttle, Adrienne Garvey, Jessica Ho Wai-on, Rose Hopewell-Fong, Lau Sze-wa, Lee Tsz-ting, Mak Ho-yee, Natasha Olson-Thorne, Aggie Poon Pak-yan, Colleen Tjosvold, Lindsay Varty.