Women's Rugby World Cup 2017

Hong Kong enlist help of Ireland legend Gordon D’Arcy as coach Jo Hull says they won’t be overawed by World Cup occasion

Players ready to lay it all on the line against Canada as eight-month build-up comes to an end at the University College Dublin on Thursday morning (Hong Kong time).

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 August, 2017, 11:10am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 August, 2017, 10:41pm

Ireland legend Gordon D’Arcy has offered his expertise to Hong Kong as they prepare for the biggest game of their lives against Canada at the Women’s Rugby World Cup on Thursday morning (Hong Kong time).

The 83-test centre spoke to the team about handling the pressure of a World Cup and coach Jo Hull said her players are taking the enormity of the occasion in their stride.

The expected crowd of 2,500 at the University College Dublin, while relatively small in sporting terms, will be the biggest many of the Hong Kong’s players have confronted.

“We can’t let the occasion get to us, it’s something we have been working on for a quite a while,” said Hull. “The only thing we can control are our actions, we have to stay focussed on what we’re doing.”

Hong Kong kick off their campaign in the smaller of the two venues at the university and Hull is expecting plenty of support for her side from the ex-players, friends, family and fans that have made the journey to Ireland.

“That is going to make such a difference to us, just trying to get the crowd behind us and it will give us a lift,” she said. “Playing in the smaller stadium will suit us very nicely, we are asking them to be as vocal as they can.”

On the pitch, Hong Kong will have to find a way to combat a physical and aggressive Canada side that combine strong running with a crafty passing game.

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While defence will be crucial to keeping third-ranked Canada in check, Hull is confident her side can create scoring opportunities of their own.

“For us it is key to disrupt them as much as we can, but also to go in with an attacking mindset,” she said.

“We’re expecting a really physical and fast game, but to be honest that’s what you expect from all the teams here.

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“If we get the ball in hand and we can run it, I really back our back three and some of our centre combinations [to have an impact].”

Hong Kong will look to the tried and tested centre partnership of Adrienne Garvey and Natasha Olson-Thorne to provide drive, with star youngster Kelsie Bouttle starting on the bench.

While Hong Kong will be under relentless pressure from a more advanced Canada side, a forward pack containing rock solid tighthead prop Lee Ka-shun looks up for the fight.

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“The forwards have got a massive job because if we don’t get any stability and we don’t get any go-forward in the scrum, it’s going to be a difficult day for us,” Hull said.

“I think potentially our set piece might go okay in terms of the scrum and in terms of our height. I think also the breakdown could go in our favour a little bit.”