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Mon, 10 August 2015

Jo Hull and Sam Feausi to Spearhead Womens Rugby Development in Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) has appointed two full-time staff members to focus on the development of womens rugby, one of the fastest growing areas of the local game in recent seasons.

Jo Hull, previously involved in senior womens development with the Scottish Rugby Union, including coaching Scotland at the Womens Rugby World Cup (WRWC) in 2006 and as Performance Manager for Scottish Rugby at the WRWC 2010, has been appointed as the HKRU Womens Rugby Performance Manager.

Hull will also assume the reigns as senior coach of the Womens national fifteens team effective immediately.

Joining Hull is new HKRU Womens Rugby Development Manager Sam Feausi. One of Hong Kong Rugbys most accomplished womens players, Feausi has been capped at both fifteens and sevens and brings a deep experience and understanding of the local game to complement Hulls international experience.

Dai Rees, HKRU General Manager of Performance Rugby  

Dai Rees. Click to enlarge (see more pics).

Dai Rees, HKRU General Manager of Performance Rugby, said, Initially we were looking to fill a single role but we were ultimately able to identify two world-class candidates in Jo and Sam. After discussions with the Board, we felt that creating two mutually supporting positions would increase our opportunity to achieve our goals. Both have immersed themselves in the challenge and their appointments have created a lot of excitement in the community.

In addition to her role with the national team, Hull will be tasked with looking after all international squads outside of the womens sevens programme, which is coordinated by Hong Kong Sports Institute (HKSI) coaches Gareth Baber and Anna Richards.

Jo brings a lot of positives with her significant international experience and will help cross-fertilize our performance programmes with best practices from other premier unions around the world, added Rees.

Feausi will focus on the development of the domestic game with a particular emphasis on creating strong player pathways to international level and working closely with the HKRU community rugby department to encourage participation and continue raising the standard of the domestic leagues. She will also coach the inaugural U20 womens sevens team ahead of the teams debut competition in the Asia Rugby U20 Sevens Series this month.

Feausi is ideally placed to fulfill her mandate of developing the local game. When she first started playing here fifteen years ago there was only one tens league for women ruggers. Today that competition has blossomed to include two fifteens leagues, one for performance players and one for developing players, as well as a development tens competition designed to transition new players into the game. A tertiary tens league has also been established to help identify new talent.

Canada has one of the best women's rugby teams in the world.

Canada Women's Rugby Sevens Team performing against France in HK. Click to enlarge (see more pics).

Ive seen the growth of the game here first-hand, said Feausi. It has been immense from when I started but there is still so much potential out there. It is really an exciting time for womens rugby. The awareness of the womens game has spiked with sevens being an elite sport at the HKSI. Now we have an opportunity to foster this growth and focus on enhancing the profile of the fifteens game.

Hull agrees with the importance of driving the development of the fifteens game alongside the sevens programme, saying:

At the Union level, we are enhancing our focus on fifteens and looking to instill best practices in the long-term that will help Hong Kong compete on the world stage.

One of my aims is to be the leader in Asian rugby in terms of what infrastructure and support we are providing to female players, from increasing participation at the grassroots level right through to senior rugby, where we want to give players the best opportunity to succeed. If we can achieve this, results on the pitch will follow, said Hull.

The two have spent the early months of their appointment conducting an in-depth analysis of the womens rugby scene.

We have met with most stakeholders to get a better understanding of where the game is and there are a lot of positives that we can build from, said Hull. There is a lot of individual talent in the Hong Kong Womens Rugby community, one of our key tasks is to integrate this talent into overall team structures.

Talent spotting has been identified as another key to long-term success. Towards this end, Hull instituted the first ever summer training programme for Hong Kongs current and aspiring national fifteens players with an eye on qualifying for the Womens Rugby World Cup in either 2018 or 2021.

We are keen to see what is out there and what the potential is in terms of player development over the coming five or six years. Our immediate performance goal is a top two finish in the Asia Rugby Womens Championship, which will potentially qualify us for the 2017 Womens Rugby World Cup repechage, said Hull.

Canada has one of the best women's rugby teams in the world.

Canada Women's Rugby Sevens Team performing against France in HK. Click to enlarge (see more pics).

Ultimately our biggest challenge is to change the mindset in local womens rugby and instill more self-belief amongst the players that womens rugby is a growth area for the HKRU and can deliver success in Asia and further abroad, Hull added. We are realistic that this is a long-term project, but there are a lot of good things happening in terms of our domestic competition so a massive part of our role is to develop and mentor the club game.

The Womens Premiership is the key feeder of the national team and we need to ensure that we are fully supporting our clubs and coaches, added Feausi.

Encouraged by the growth in local womens rugby in recent seasons, the HKRU has instituted new development and age grade programmes including U19s Girls and U16s Girls programmes and an Academy for younger girls, as well as establishing the HKRUs first U20s Womens Sevens team in 2015.

Considering this dramatic growth in both the playing levels and the programmes designed to support this, the appointment of Hull and Feausi is timely.

Hull is upbeat about Hong Kongs potential saying, The HKRU is now very unique in world rugby with two dedicated staff members to develop the womens game. Many tier one unions with high performance womens teams dont have full-time staff, even the New Zealand Rugby Union only recently engaged a womens rugby strategic manager, so this move is a great testament to the HKRUs commitment to womens rugby. From what I have seen, Hong Kong has the infrastructure, the goals and the ability to implement what we need to enjoy success.

Note: The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union (HKRFU) recently changed its name to the Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU).

HKRFU, Scotland, Canada, France, Hong Kong, Women, Rugby

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