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A Chiefs Women’s Sevens team has returned from Nanjing, China after a week of extensive training and matches with the Jiangsu women’s sevens team.

In a special first for a New Zealand Super Rugby Club, the Chiefs sent a Women’s Sevens team to China to train and play with the Jiangsu team with the aim of assisting in their rugby development in preparation for Jiangsu’s berth at the 2019 Women’s World Sevens Series.

The team came about through a collaborative effort between New Zealand Women’s Sevens, Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Taranaki & Counties Manukau to field a squad and support staff that travelled over to the province of Jiangsu in China.

Chiefs CEO Mike Collins spoke of his excitement at seeing the project succeed.

“It was really exciting to bring this project together. This opportunity has afforded the Chiefs Rugby Club to assemble a Chiefs Women’s Team. Spending some time with the team in China, it is hard, not to appreciate, the player’s athleticism, work ethic and pride they took in representing the Chiefs Rugby Club.”

The partnership between the Chiefs Rugby Club and Jiangsu was formed in February, where the Chiefs hosted the Chinese team. They were preparing for important matches against Shandong, the number one ranked team in China, where the winner of these games would represent China at the World Sevens Series qualifying tournament in Hong Kong.

Following this experience in Hamilton, Jiangsu went on to beat Shandong two games to one, dethroning Shandong who had been the champions for the last eight years. Jiangsu then represented China at the Hong Kong tournament, where they played exceptionally well and ended up remarkably beating South Africa in the final to gain entry to the 2019 Women’s World Series.

Collins was thrilled by the progress Jiangsu had made since the partnership began.

“It was encouraging to witness the gains the Jiangsu team had made since the Chiefs started working with them in February. To see them beat Shandong, the reigning champions and qualify for the 2019 Women’s World Series was great.”

Chiefs Women’s player Huia Harding spoke of how special it was to represent the Chiefs jersey in China.

“Having a strong interest in the Chiefs, it was a huge honour to put on the Chiefs jersey and represent the team. It was really cool to get out there and connect with the Jiangsu girls and play rugby which we love to do.”

Harding also spoke of the skill and athleticism the Jiangsu team displayed.

“We saw the girls train a couple of days before we played them. They’re fit, strong and talented players. There was so much mutual respect and they were great rugby players. They play a different style of rugby for us and it was great experience for us as players to experience.”

Chiefs team coach Paul Williams witnessed rugby and the Chiefs culture to be a vehicle to bring the two cultures together.

“It was apparent how the Chiefs culture helped to break down barriers and bring us together. The Chinese girls all wished us well and commented how much they enjoyed working with us. It was bigger than the game and it really showed how rugby can bring cultures together.”

Jiangsu also appreciated the skill and experience the Chiefs team brought with them and Williams was delighted at how they represented the Chiefs brand.

“The Jiangsu team were really appreciative of the calibre of players that we brought over and the opportunity to train and better themselves through working and playing against our girls. I was proud to see the girls represent the Chiefs jersey with so much pride and they were a real credit to our brand.”

The Chiefs Rugby Club and Jiangsu are planning further training and player opportunities in the future.

“In conjunction with our Provincial Union partners, it will be good to continue the ongoing conversation of how we can assist Provincial Unions in the development of women’s rugby in the Chiefs region an how we can continue to capitalise on the Jiangsu partnership” said Collins.

The Chiefs Women’s team which travelled to China was:

Paul Williams - Coach
Tony Burgess - Trainer
Kendall Stevenson - Physio

Players:
Tiana Davison
Huia Harding
Natahlia Moors
Jessie Aitken-Fowell
Rhiarna Ferris
Shiray Tane
Alena Saili

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