Ask almost anyone about the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens and they will know what it is. Even if they are personally not a fan, they will certainly know when it is taking place: it is the one weekend when the city is void of expats, they are all at the Hong Kong Stadium (save for after 9pm, if in doubt go to LKF). The creativity in costumes and booze consumption only seems to increase each year, and the weekend of the 7th – 9th of April this year certainly raised the bar for rugby fandom worldwide. There were parts of the tournament however that received much less attention than the bulk of the weekend, judging from the scarcity of Google search results. You guessed it right, or you read the title of this post: women. Not those in audience, which, if you added all the guys dressed as nuns, geishas, maids and nurses, were aplenty. This segment is about the 12 women’s teams that played at this year’s Sevens, with a focus on the Hong Kong’s national team.
Sitting amid the rows of the South Stand, it wasn’t impossible to hear things like “Oh, there are women’s matches today too!” or “The women’s tournament apparently started three days ago!”. In fact, the 2017 Hong Kong Women’s Sevens itself is a qualifier for the ‘17 – ‘18 World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series, in which the Japanese team now has a spot. Japan played its final match against South Africa, and winning at 22 – 10 . The Hong Kong team made it to the quarterfinals on the 6th April, winning its last match against Belgium, but having lost to Kenya and Argentina. The other teams that played in this tournament were Jamaica, China, the Netherlands, Italy, Papua New Guinea and Colombia.
The Hong Kong women’s sevens team has been kicking off since 2013, based at the Hong Kong Sports Institute. Anna Richards, the head coach from New Zealand, currently trains twenty players. Understandably, she was heartbroken over the girls’ loss. In an interview for the South China Morning Post she explained:
“People think that it’s just a qualifier but people have seen today there are some quality teams here,” said Richards. “You make one mistake and it’s going to cost you. We beat Belgium and they were top of the pool but we just don’t maintain our consistency and when you can’t do that you’re always going to struggle.”
However the Hong Kong women’s team has had its moments of victory through the years as well, with a particularly glorious one being 2015 when the girls won first place at the Margaret River Sevens Tournament in Australia, and at the Asian Sevens Series Qingdao in China.
In an interview a year ago, Lindsay Varty, player in the women’s team was asked by Sassy Hong Kong what she thought about the sport in HK as opposed to women’s rugby around the world. She replied: “We are very lucky in HK that there is a progressional women’s set up – that’s something quite rare for women’s rugby around the world. Also, the women’s rugby community in Hong Kong is just so happy and welcoming, lots of girls join clubs every year and end up staying. I think that says a lot for how friendly rugby girls are! As women’s rugby progresses, I think we’ll start to see a lot more talent coming up through the ranks and the women’s league will be a lot more competitive.”
Women’s rugby in Hong Kong is just getting started, and as the sport progresses and accommodates even more women around the world, it is certain that we will be in for amazing shows and tournaments in the coming years.