Pool A: Hong Kong braced for a New Zealand mauling
Former runners-up Canada should prove too strong for Wales in their clash
Magali Harvey: Canada’s flying winger scoring one of her five tries against Hong Kong. Photograph: Oiin Keniry/Inpho
Four-time champions New Zealand against Hong Kong is a match to view with some trepidation. From the outset the best runner-up from the three pools was going to emerge from this Pool A because of the haul of points offered up by the weakest team in the tournament.
But even in the spirit of progress and evolution of the game the benefits for Hong Kong in this mismatch must be questioned. Canada already have scored 98 points against them in their opening blowout win and New Zealand, ranked one place higher at two in the world, are likely to match or exceed that score.
It is in New Zealand interests to score as many points as they can on Sunday in the event of Canada beating them to first place in the pool when they meet next Thursday.
With an eye on their final pool match with Canada, New Zealand must balance player welfare issues with a need to score points with front line players such as netball and sevens convert, winger Portia Woodman, maybe taking a limited role.
People can point to Ireland beating New Zealand three years ago (the tournament is now in a four year cycle) and ending their 20-match unbeaten World Cup run. But Sunday’s head-to-head is of a different magnitude.
Possibly the best team in the world against the 24th-ranked side, who through the Asian qualification system finds themselves in a 12-team World Cup. Still it’s a dream opportunity for Hong Kong.
They might look to Japan, who caused a national crisis in South Africa when they beat the Springboks in the men’s World Cup. But despite a poor New Zealand lineout against Wales in windy conditions, few can see an upset like that this time.
Wales gave New Zealand too much turnover ball when they met. That area should be tightened up against Canada, silver medallists in the last tournament, who have demonstrated intent. Flying winger Magali Harvey, a star from 2014, grabbed five tries and eight conversions against Hong Kong and was named Player of the Match.
“There are some things to fix going forward, but we’ll get there,” said Canadian captain Kelly Russell, who scored three tries.
Another rough day looks imminent for Wales. too