Hong Kong name squad for Spain Test : Hong Kong coach Jo Hull has announced her selection for today’s test match against Spain (19.00 Hong Kong time), presently ranked seventh in the world.
Hull is playing her strongest squad in what is an important benchmark for the team’s development, two years on from the first test between the two in December 2015, a 49-12 win for the hosts.
“We’re still experimenting to some degree with our combinations, but we’ve gone with our strongest team against what we’re anticipating will be a much more experienced Spanish side,” said Hull.
“They played a lot of new players mid-week and we’re expecting more of their experienced players to play on Saturday, particularly in the forwards,” Hull noted.
That could be problematic for Hong Kong, who struggled mightily in the scrum on Tuesday.
“Spain bullied us a bit so we need to use our strengths to our advantage and manage games against those bigger teams. We have to stop their ball carriers and bring them to ground early and we have to be able to live with that pressure for a full 80 minutes,” Hull noted.
“We panicked a bit under pressure on Tuesday. We aren’t going to score from our own half against world class teams so we need to play smarter and use territory much better,” Hull added.
The selection of Rose Hopewell-Fong at fly-half will help in controlling those scenarios. Chloe Mak Ho-yee will pair with Hopewell-Fong as Hull looks to pose more questions of the Spanish defence.
“We’re giving Chloe the start as she offers something a bit different. While Rosie has that experience in controlling a match, Chloe will help us speed things up a bit,” Hull said.
Hull has also turned to an experienced backline with all of the outside backs coming from Hong Kong’s sevens squad, including Ivy Kwong and the hard-running Natasha Olson-Thorne in the centres.
Chong Ka-yan, a standout for Hull on Tuesday, and Aggie Poon Pak-yan start on the wings while Colleen Tjosvold, who scored all of Hong Kong’s points in the opener, retains her spot at fullback.
“It’s an experienced backline, but they need to perform and to step-up really. We’re disappointed that we didn’t capitalize on our opportunities on Tuesday. We had two or three scoring chances that we squandered and we’ve given them a chance to put that right on Saturday,” Hull added.
In the forwards, Lau Nga-wun, Lee Ka-shun and Karen So will start in the front row with captain Chow Mei-nam forming a locking partnership with Tsang Sin-yan, who impressed on her senior debut earlier in the week. Vice captain Amelie Seure anchors the pack at No.8 with ball-fetcher Cheng Ching-to and Winnie Siu, another senior debutant earlier this week, on the flanks.
“Winnie was dynamic on Tuesday and we need a similar performance from her. Sin-yan earned her first cap by putting in a lot of work in the warm-up match. She hit a huge amount of rucks and was very effective around the pitch. She did the work we need our tight five to do – those unsung hero roles.”
Already conceding significant size to their opponents, the pack will have its work cut out for it as Spain are likely to field more of its veteran forwards, battle hardened from numerous matches against Women’s Six nations sides.
“We need to keep hold of the ball. We had too many turnovers on Tuesday, both forced and unforced. We also need to get our kicking game right and ensure we’re playing in the right areas,” said Hull.
Saturday is an important milestone in Hong Kong’s build-up to its first ever Rugby World Cup appearance and the squad understands what is on the line.
“The girls are actually hugely disappointed with Tuesday’s performance. We’ve received a lot of messages from home, a lot of congratulations on the score, but the girls are setting a higher goal.
“Our message this week has been about earning the right to play. This is our first international step towards the World Cup. We aren’t treating this like a normal tour, our only objective and ambition is to get better. No matter how well we do, we can’t be satisfied until we know our performance is where it needs to be, at World Cup level,” Hull added.
Hong Kong squad v Spain (3 June 2017)
- LAU Nga-wun, 2. Karen SO, 3. LEE Ka-shun, 4. TSANG Sin-yan, 5. CHOW Mei-nam (captain) 6. CHENG Ching-to, 7. Winnie SIU, 8. Amelie SEURE (vice capt), 9. MAK Ho-yee, 10. Rose HOPEWELL-FONG, 11. CHONG Ka-yan, 12. KWONG Sau-yan 13. Natasha OLSON-THORNE, 14. Aggie POON Pak-yan, 15. Colleen TJOSVOLD (vice capt). 16. Royce CHAN Leong-sze, 17. HO Hoi-lam, 18. PUN Wai-yan, 19. CHEUNG Shuk-hang, 20. Eunice LAI Ming-yan, 21. Lindsay VARTY, 22. LEE Tsz-ting, 23. Laurel CHOR