October 4, 2022

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Omicron restrictions force Hong Kong’s women to end Rugby World Cup dream

Hong Kong’s women have been forced to withdraw from their Rugby World Cup qualifier in Dubai next month because of travel restrictions linked to Covid-19.

The women’s 15s side had been expected to play Kazakhstan in the UAE on February 13, with the winners then going into the final global repechage tournament the following week, where a place at the 2021 World Cup in New Zealand later this year is up for grabs.

In a statement released on Friday evening, the Hong Kong Rugby Union said it had also been forced to make the decision because of the lockdown of sports facilities in the city.

“The team has been unable to train for the competition, which was first scheduled for May 2020 before being rescheduled numerous times with the final dates set for February 2022,” the statement said.
“Given current social-distancing restrictions in place in Hong Kong, the team would not have been able to train until February 4 at the earliest, leaving it just days to ready for the competition, hampering preparations and creating a potential risk to player safety.”
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The union had wanted the Hong Kong government to grant a training exemption for the squad, with the women’s side the only representative team to have qualified for a World Cup. But that would have included all the players, who are amateurs, undergoing mandatory home quarantines outside of training and competition or travel periods, something the governing body said “proved unfeasible”.
Players were already facing a month away from work and other commitments to train and play, with a game against Samoa on February 19 if they beat Kazakhstan. That was without the 21 days in quarantine they would have to do when they go back, assuming the Hong Kong government had not banned flights from coming from Dubai in the interim.
“This is incredibly disappointing news for Hong Kong’s vibrant women’s rugby scene, especially the committed group of players and coaches who have gone above and beyond in their efforts to pursue Hong Kong’s Rugby World Cup dream, and to follow in the footsteps of their peers at the 2017 tournament,” Patrick Donovan, the union’s chairman, said.