Coach Jo Hull has revealed the 28 players who will represent Hong Kong on their Women’s Rugby World Cup debut in Ireland next month.
Hong Kong, who qualified through the Asia/Oceania tournament last December, will take their place alongside WRWC 2014 runners-up Canada, four-time champions New Zealand and Wales in Pool A for the 9-26 August showpiece event.
Hull is under no illusions as to the challenges her squad will face at the World Cup, but she is determined to create a legacy to ensure Hong Kong will have more opportunities to test themselves against the world’s elite nations in the future.
“We are going to use every woman in the squad in Ireland, and that is a key to our larger goal and mission – to ensure that our first World Cup appearance isn’t our last, and to create a legacy for the game back home in Hong Kong,” explained Hull.
“Qualification for the World Cup is a good start, but our objectives transcend wins and losses in terms of creating our legacy. We want to inspire more girls to take up rugby after our appearance.
“We also want to change the perception of the women’s game in Hong Kong and to show how tough you have to be, how dedicated and how resilient you have to be – rather than giving in or walking away when it gets tough. The players selected are a key to crafting that legacy.
“There are not too many surprises in the final squad. We have gone with our experience and some of our more physical players that can withstand the challenge of a World Cup, but we are really excited to see the number of young players who have raised their hands during the campaign.
“These players have really come into their own and are improving every game. We have rewarded that potential and it is a fantastic opportunity for them to shine. The senior players will need to lead that culture-building in Ireland, while the younger players are the bridge to take this spirit back to their schools and national age grade team-mates.”
Second-row CHOW Mei-nam will captain the squad and is eager that “by the end of the tournament, I want the other teams to know about Hong Kong rugby and respect us”. She is joined by a core of experienced players, among them former captain Royce CHAN and Christy CHENG.
Emerging players hoping to shine include scrum-halves MAK Ho-yee and Jessica Ho and fly-half LEE Tsz-ting, while the youngest in the squad is centre Kelsie Bouttle, the 18-year-old having only made her test debut in the Asia Rugby Women’s Championship against Japan earlier this month.
“It’s been an eye opener for me to be involved and a great motivator to develop my rugby. The World Cup will be an incredible experience,” said Bouttle. “It’s good to be included because I am still young and hopefully have a long way to go in my rugby, so I will be in a position to share that experience and transfer my knowledge to other young players, as I am still training with the U19s.”
While Hong Kong will be making their tournament debut, the same can’t be said of their coach Hull who was Scotland assistant coach in 2006 and Performance Manager at the Scottish Rugby Union for the 2010 campaign.
“The opportunity to bring my own squad to the World Cup is a tremendous honour, especially with this group of players. To coach a team like this at a World Cup is an honour and I feel a lot of responsibility because of it,” admitted Hull.
“I’m looking forward to that buzz and excitement that surrounds a World Cup. I know from my own experience that this will be the most amazing three weeks of their sporting lives and to be able to lead them through that is a privilege.”
Hong Kong squad
Forwards: CHOW Mei-nam (captain), CHAN Ka-yan, Royce CHAN, CHAN Tsz-ching, Christy CHENG, CHEUNG Shuk-Han, Christine GORDON, LAU Nga-wun, LEE Ka-shun, PUN Wai-yan, Amelie SEURE, Winnie SIU, Winnie; Karen SO, TSANG Sin-yan, WONG Yuen-shan.
Backs: Adrienne GARVEY (vice-captain), CHONG Ka-yan, Laurel CHOR, Kelsie BOUTTLE, Jessica HO, Rose HOPEWELL-FONG, LAU Sze-wa, LEE Tsz-ting, MAK Ho-yee, Natasha OLSON-THORNE, POON Pak-yan, Colleen TJOSVOLD, Lindsay VARTY.