Bad news for Hong Kong at the Women’s Rugby World Cup – mighty New Zealand are hungry for tries to boost semi-final hopes
Coach Jo Hull makes a number of changes to take on a Black Ferns outfit eager to boost their points difference in Ireland
Hong Kong’s defence is in for the ultimate test against the almighty New Zealand on Sunday, with the format of the Women’s Rugby World Cup ensuring every point counts.
On top of the three pool winners, the best second-placed team also progresses to the semi-finals, meaning there won’t be any let-up from the Black Ferns as they look to build a healthy points difference in case they lose to Canada in their final pool game next week.
New Zealand opened their campaign in pool A with a 44-12 win over Wales in Dublin, while Hong Kong lost 98-0 to Canada.
“We’re in the unenviable position where the fourth-placed semi-finalist is going to come out of our pool because of points difference,” said Hong Kong Rugby Union’s chief rugby operations officer Dai Rees.
“New Zealand are one of the world’s most talented teams, they’re not going to bash it up like Canada, they’re going to play around us, they’re going to play width and they’re going to play pace.
“Their full back is a superb player, their wingers are world class and they are going to try and rack it.”
Hong Kong coach Jo Hull has made a number of changes to her squad of 23 with defence in mind, with hooker Royce Chan Leong-sze and fly half Lee Tsz-ting among five additions as Hong Kong look for ways to defuse a potent New Zealand attack.
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“We have gone with what I think is quite a strong, versatile team in terms of the contact area,” Hull said. “Royce at hooker brings that backbone and warrior mindset that we want.
“We’re aware that if we give New Zealand the time and the space that we gave Canada, there will be a lot more tries coming because they are so clinical.
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“We have gone with the players that we think will defend that, but with [Lee] at 10 I think if we get the chance to attack, that game will really suit her if it opens up.”
Hull is hopeful her side can build on the positive set-piece work that saw them win 80 per cent of their line-outs against Canada, and has put a premium on physicality against the world’s second-ranked team.
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Lindsay Varty is another player to come into the squad and the veteran cannot wait to take the field against New Zealand, who finished fifth at the 2014 tournament in France.
“I’ve been playing for Hong Kong since I was 17 and I really thought that maybe I wouldn’t make it here,” she said.
“I had a few injuries along the way and I thought it might be the end for me. To get here and be here in Dublin is incredible and to see my name on the list for New Zealand, I cannot wait.”
While admitting she knows what to expect from the four-time women’s World Cup winners, Varty is sure Hong Kong won’t be star-struck by the Black Ferns come Sunday.
“We have worked so hard to get here and we really do deserve to play against a team like that, it’s pretty exciting,” she said.
“If you go to the World Cup you want to play against the best teams in the world and it is finally happening on Sunday.”