From club rugby in England to the world stage, Jo Hull is still keeping it fun for Hong Kong X-factor Rose Hopewell-Fong
The pair first met when the 27-year-old moved to the United Kingdom to study over 10 years ago and the fly half credits her coach with playing a pivotal role in her career
Hong Kong’s 98-0 loss to Canada wasn’t the ideal start to their Women’s Rugby World Cup campaign, but fly half Rose Hopewell-Fong isn’t worried about the mood in the camp suffering too much.
With a number of tough games to come – starting with Sunday’s clash with New Zealand – Hong Kong will need to keep their heads up and according to Hopewell-Fong, it starts at the top with coach Jo Hull.
The pair have a long history that dates back to when Hopewell-Fong moved to England for school as a 16-year-old.
“She keeps it fun,” 27-year-old Hopewell-Fong says. “She was actually the person we liaised with when I first decided I wanted to go to England.
“We were looking at which academies in England had girl’s rugby for a 16 year old. We had heard about East Durham and Houghall College and Jo was the coach of the women’s side.
“The summer before I started I went and met her, but when I started at the college she had actually left, but she ended up being my club coach for the team I joined alongside school.”
It was at this club side – Darlington Mowden Park – where the pair’s relationship thrived and Hopewell-Fong credits Hull with playing a pivotal role in her career.
“It’s been good to see her journey,” Hull says. “There are only a few players that have the X-factor and when she’s on, she does have it.
“She can be a real attacking threat when she has that self belief and that confidence and she goes for it. She also offers us a level of control and maturity.”
It’s this X-factor that saw Hopewell-Fong feature in England’s under-20 set-up before a knee injury and the advent of Hong Kong’s professional sevens programme contributed to a move back aged 21.
“I decided that on finishing university and coming out still injured, that I wanted to return home and I knew that the HKRU [Hong Kong Rugby Union] were going to give me support in terms of being a professional sevens player, as well as being with my family again,” she says.
It wasn’t too long before the pair were reunited though, with Hull taking charge of Hong Kong in 2015.
“When I heard our 15s coach was leaving, I told her there might be an opportunity and she had already been contacted by someone at the HKRU asking her to apply for the job,” Hopewell-Fong says.
“I was really excited to hear she was coming back because I knew she was a brilliant coach.”
And while rugby is obviously the focus for much of Hong Kong’s trip to Ireland, Hopewell-Fong is hopeful of squeezing in a catch-up with some old teammates.
No respite for Hong Kong after Canada World Cup thrashing as ‘10 per cent tougher’ match against New Zealand looms
“Jo and I were talking, we have actually got quite a few of our club mates coming to watch, so we are hopefully going to have time to catch up with them for a drink,” she says.
“That would be amazing, I haven’t seen them since I was 21.”