Japan and Hong Kong have sealed the two spots available to Asia and Oceania in the 12-team Women’s Rugby World Cup finals in Ireland next August.
The Japanese team’s 55-0 defeat of Fiji in Tuesday night’s qualifying match in Hong Kong secured both their own berth – the first time in four tournaments they have reached a World Cup – and Hong Kong’s. Fiji, having lost 45-7 to Hong Kong in the opening tie of the three-way qualifying round on Friday, had to win in order to keep their chances alive.
The outcome marks the first-time any Hong Kong team, male or female, will feature at a 15-a-side World Cup.
Hong Kong coach Jo Hull commented: “It’s huge; it’s hard to put it into words.”
She added: “Hong Kong rugby is about the men and the women; we had this opportunity first and have grabbed it with both hands, but I think it sets a real precedent about the potential we have in our game in Hong Kong.”
Hong Kong, having lost both of their games against Japan in the Asia Rugby Championship earlier this year, will face their rivals again on Saturday to determine which side tops qualifying.
The winners will join hosts Ireland, along with France and Australia, in pool C of the tournament, which takes place from August 9-16 next year. The runner-up, meanwhile, will join 2014 second-place finishers Canada, New Zealand and Wales in pool A, which Hull believes “is undoubtedly the most physical pool.” Defending champions England, the USA, Italy and Spain make up pool B.