The Hong Kong Rugby Union’s Women’s squad selected for the first of a two-test tour against Spain and Wales includes 11 new caps in the match-day 23. Six of the new caps will run out in the starting fifteen against Spain on Sunday in Alicante (19.30 Hong Kong time).
Prop Yip Cho-kwan marks her first cap in a front row with captain and hooker Dr Karen So and stalwart Tammy Lau. Newcomer Tsang Ching-man forms a locking partnership with Angela Chan, while the back row sees flanker Maggie Au Yeung partnering with Winnie Siu with vice captain Melody Li at No.8.
Rugby World Cup 2017 veteran Jessica Ho will start at scrumhalf, serving Cheng Lok-tung who marks her first cap at fly-half. Sevens captain Natasha Olson-Thorne will start at outside centre, pairing with U20s graduate Sarah Lucas, while speedster Chong Ka-yan resumes her customary place on the left wing with long-time senior squad member Bena Yu getting her chance on the right side while Cindy Yuen starts at fullback.
The reserves bench sees five more new caps with front rowers Charlotte Myrans and Vincci Leung joining flanker Amber Tsang in back-stopping the forwards, while another National Age Grade player in Grace Hood is in line for a first cap in the centres. Sevens star Stephanie Chan is likely to earn her first cap off the bench, as her versatility helps provide cover for a number of positions in the backs.
Experienced campaigners in prop Debby Lam and back Chloe Mak provide added experience and depth on the bench.
Hong Kong is familiar with Spain, having toured the Iberian Peninsula twice in recent years, and matching up against the Leonas at the Rugby World Cup in Ireland in 2017, a 31-7 loss for Hong Kong.
In that match, Spain’s overwhelming pace was apparent as they scored four of five tries from longer than 50-metres out. Spain was also one of the top teams at the 2017 world championship in forcing turnovers, setting the platform for their devastating counter-attacks.
Jo Hull, national coach and General Manager of Women’s Performance Rugby at the HKRU, understands what Spain is about, saying, “They will be fast, with a lot of sevens influence, and will want to play a counterattacking game. They love to counter,” said Hull.
For Hull and her untested Hong Kong squad the match represents a much needed opportunity to acclimate to the demands of international rugby.
“One of the big things we have been working on is our ability to play at a higher game speed to withstand the intensity of test rugby. That’s the biggest challenge for us, and playing physically stronger teams.”
A year on from an historic first ever appearance at a fifteen-a-side world cup, the squad has more exposure to the demands of test rugby and another season of strength and conditioning work and high performance training beneath their belts.
Spain will provide the early test of how Hong Kong sizes up against some of the world’s leading women’s rugby nations ahead of future Women’s Rugby World Cup qualification campaigns.
Hong Kong squad for Spain Test (Alicante, Spain, 11 Nov 2018)
- LAU Nga-Wun, 2. Dr Karen SO (captain), 3. YIP Cho-kwan, 4. CHAN Ka-yan, 5. TSANG Ching-man, 6. Maggie AU YEUNG, 7. Winnie SIU, 8. Melody LI, 9. Jessica HO, 10. CHENG Lok-tung, 11. CHONG Ka-yan, 12. Sarah LUCAS, 13. Natasha OLSON-THORNE (vice captain), 14. Bena YU, 15. Cindy YUEN, 16. Charlotte MYRANS, 17. Vincci LEUNG, 18. Debby LAM, 19. Amber TSANG, 20. PUN Wai-yan, 21. Chloe MAK, 22. Grace HOOD, 23 Stephanie CHAN.