HONG KONG CHINA VS KAZAKHSTAN - ARWC 2023 PREVIEW
[19 May 2023] Our women's HKRU XVs head to Kazakhstan to challenge for the Asia Rugby Women’s Championship (ARCW) 2023 which is the 12th edition of the tournament but this year has the added incentive of WXV qualification.
Although the tournament has seen a late change with China withdrawing, for the Hong Kong China ladies the first encounter remains the same - try and beat Kazakhstan for the first time in Almaty.
A win against the hosts at the Almaty Sports Training Complex on Tuesday 23 May will guarantee WXV qualification and a match against Japan in the ARCW Final on 28th May at the same venue. Hong Kong China heads into the match slightly higher ranked by World Rugby at 16th, while the hosts are ranked 19th globally.
Over the course of the ARWC, Kazakhstan has won five times, Japan four times, and China and Hong Kong China one time each.
ARWC 2023 Preparation
The Hong Kong China Women XV have had four crucial matches post-pandemic, with a 2-0 series win over Kazakhstan in Hong Kong in December 2022, followed up by the recent tour to Europe in which they beat Sweden but narrowly lost to the Netherlands in Amsterdam.
HKRU Women’s Head Coach Royce Chan Leong-sze said of the tour: “In terms of the preparation, it has been quite challenging but the opportunity to play in Europe definitely helped us to get ready for the ARWC. We have always been focused on the first game against Kazakhstan. We know they are a good opponent and are really competitive. It will be a really close game and a tough game.”
She added “It was good to travel as a group again, we haven't been able to travel together as a new team and management and we had a lot to overcome. I think it's a big credit to all the players and the management. Those teams in Europe are very physical and they had just finished playing the European Championship as well so we have had good game time to prepare for Kazakhstan.”
The Kazakhstan Challenge
The matches have allowed the coaches to blood a number of new caps while still balancing the inclusion of key players who have been tied up in the Sevens programme, such as Natasha Olson-Thorne, Rosanna Wright and Jessica Ho. The week in Europe also allowed the squad to experience playing two tough physical tests with a short turnaround - something they will be aspiring to overcome in Almaty.
Olson-Thorne said of the upcoming tournament in Almaty: “We’re really excited going into the Asia Rugby Championship next week. Everyone in the squad, both players and management, has been putting in the hard work to be in the best place we can be - both physically and mentally - as we go into our first game against Kazakhstan.
We’ve been building to this tournament for several months now and had a strong preparation leading up to it, which included the two recent hit outs against Sweden and the Netherlands. We learned a lot from those games, and now are just excited to go out and play and show what we can do.”
In total, the travelling squad of 28 includes a good representation from the HK Premiership clubs USRC Tigers, Gai Wu, Kowloon, HKFC, and Valley with the same coaching staff that have overseen the previous four test matches; both Sam Hocking and Sam Beard supporting Royce in preparing the team.
HKRU Women’s XV backs and attack Coach Sam Beard said of the prospect of playing the Kazakhstan team in their backyard in the opening fixture: ”We’re expecting a big contest. We know that Kazakhstan will bring a lot of physicality, so we’ll be concentrating on the things we can do well, such as playing at speed and moving the ball.
The continued investment into the women’s game is something we’re really proud to be a part of, and qualifying for the WXV would be a huge reward for this group after all the hard work they’ve put into their preparations”
The winner of the Hong Kong China vs Kazakhstan match will (along with Japan) be guaranteed to play in WXV this year. The winner of ARWC 2023 will go on to play in WXV Division 2, while the runner-up will compete in WXV 3.
However, the whole team is focused on the first match before they can think about the prospects of playing Japan or participating in WXV. “Kazakhstan always gives us a surprise. I think it's down to the day who can perform better and implement their game plan and execute it better on the day,” added Royce. “But I think we are all excited and ready for the challenge.”
The match referee is Eri Kamimura (Japan Rugby Football Union), supported by assistant referees Christabelle Lim (Singapore Rugby Union) and Hibiki Ikeda (Japan Rugby Football Union).
The squad departed Hong Kong on Friday 19th May and will likely announce the starting team and captain for the Kazakhstan match on Monday 22nd May.
Hong Kong China vs Kazakhstan will be played at 16:00 (+6 GMT) on Tuesday 23rd May and will be live-streamed on Asia Rugby’s YouTube channel. The winner will play Japan on Sunday 28th May at the same venue at 15:00 (+6 GMT) local time.
Keep up to date with previews, squad announcements and streaming details on our socials, hkrugby.com or asiarugby.com. This piece was written in collaboration with Rugby Asia 24/7.
Information and Photo source : Hong Kong Rugby Union