After years of toil including a summer slog in Japan, Hong Kong skipper Chow Mei-nam is ready to take to Women’s World Cup stage
Fearless captain has high expectations of herself and her team of underdogs as powerhouses Canada, New Zealand and Wales await
A desire to succeed that once saw her turn to the enemy to better herself will ensure Chow Mei-nam is the perfect person to lead Hong Kong into the oncoming storm at the Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland.
A fearless captain, Chow is determined to have an impact in the tournament starting on Wednesday and it is clear the second-rower is ready for whatever Hong Kong’s pool A opponents Canada, New Zealand and Wales have to throw at her.
“My goal is to be a world-class lock and the World Cup will provide me a stage to try and achieve it,” she says.
“It’s not only me who leads the team even though I’m captain, I have many experienced players behind me who support me and we drive the team forward together.
“I’m more of a player’s captain I think, mostly I will only be vocal when we need to step up.”
A thirst to be the best she can be is nothing new for the 28-year-old, who made her debut for Hong Kong in 2015.
“One day my coach said to me, if you want to be in the Hong Kong team you have to grab the opportunity, it won’t just come to you,” she says.
“Four years ago, I went to train at the Nippon Sports University on my own. I made some contacts with Japanese women’s rugby through my club at the time, Causeway Bay. I did an intensive summer programme.”
Like her individual goals, Chow is not backward in coming forward when talking about what she wants 23rd-ranked Hong Kong to achieve in Ireland.
“We will see in the first game how tough we are,” she says. “We can test where we are and challenge our opponents, and let them know that Hong Kong is coming.
“We know that we aren’t the best team at the World Cup, but we want to cause some surprises. We want to beat someone, at least one team.
“One of our advantages is that our competitors don’t know much about Hong Kong and they probably aren’t thinking about us very much.”
Hong Kong’s best chance of victory will come in the play-offs for lower places once pool play is complete, and Chow hopes they can catch sides out with their “fast and furious” style of play.
“We need to use our unique attributes well,” she says. “If they are bigger, we need to be quicker and more nimble. We want to play quick ball and throw it around a bit.”
There is a lot of looking forward from those in the Hong Kong camp, like they are sure that this World Cup is only one of the first steps in a long journey.
Chow is as certain as anyone that this is a team going places and as far as ambassadors for the game in Hong Kong go, they don’t come much better.
She’s dedicated to growing the sport and knows that while her time in the game is limited, what she does now can have a big impact on the future.
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“We need to up our efforts in attracting girls at primary and secondary school level,” she says. “In my job as a PE teacher [at Hotung Secondary School where she worked from 2012 until this year], I pushed the game a lot.
“In my second year of teaching I organised a rugby team at my school and we went on to become the All Hong Kong Schools sevens champions.”
At a time when World Rugby is looking to grow the game in Asia, you won’t find better advocates for the sport in the region than the Hong Kong women’s team.
Every player you talk to is glowing in their praise of the inclusive and diverse nature of the sport, with Chow leading the charge.
“Rugby is a sport where a diverse group of people can play, you don’t have to be the fastest runner, you don’t have to be the strongest girl,” says Chow.
“Everyone has different skills that can contribute to the game and that’s why I love the sport. It is not only one thing, but many things that make up a team.”