Chad Shepherd, the head coach of the China women’s sevens side was beaming from ear to ear after his side won the Hong Kong Sevens qualifier.
Just two months into the job and Shepherd helped guide his side to an unbeaten six wins from six to claim the coveted spot on the World Series next season.
China improved as the tournament went on, scoring 24 tries and conceding just eight, with a knock-out run any team would be proud of including scoring four against a Belgium side who conceded just once on day in, in the semi-finals.
In the final, thanks to a hat-trick from Chen Keyi, victory never looked in doubt for Shepherd’s side as they ran out 31-14 victors.
“It is pretty surreal, but a lot of the hard work was already done, this was just adding the icing on the cake really,” said Shepherd, the former Germany sevens coach who lost in the men’s qualifier final last year in Hong Kong.
“I am just really proud. We only had nine players left for the last two games, three were ruled out with injuries so they showed a massive amount of heart. The work ethic and determination really showed through, and that was pleasing more than anything.”
Next for China is the Japan Sevens in Kitakyushu at the end of the month where they will get first-hand experience of life on the series.
After that it’s off to Rugby World Cup Sevens, their spot also confirmed in Hong Kong, with a provincial series determining which team will travel to San Francisco.
“We have got the World Series in Japan, that is our next highlight and then from there we have a provincial series, which will determine which team represents China at RWC 7s.
“We obviously won one to come to Hong Kong so there’s another one going into the World Cup. Then it’s the World Series next year, and one eye on the Olympics in 2020.”
Having been in the job for a short period, what has Shepherd seen about a China side that is seemingly going from strength to strength?
“The girls have progressed really well, but to be fair to the Chinese coaches that have been there before, they’ve done a great job and they have instilled a lot of fundamentals, great passing and things like that.
“The foundations were already there, they have a great work ethic and they have really brought into what I’ve tried to bring in.”