Asia set for one giant #Sevens conversation
With five rounds of the HSBC Sevens World Series already played Sevens fans around the world head into the Tokyo Sevens and next weekend's Hong Kong event with interest at an all-time high.
New Zealand and South Africa lead the way in the Series but Fiji are hot on their heels and head coach Ben Ryan is confident that a good performance here in Japan could set up a real charge, with Hong Kong very much their back yard.
Whether it's down to the heat of the battle or the growth of the Sevens game in general, the level of interaction has grown exponentially this season with you, the fans, discussing and debating every aspect of the Series with as much passion as the coaches, the players and fans lucky enough to be in the stadium. Whether on Facebook,Twitter, YouTube or elsewhere, you've never been in better voice!
Video content from the Series ticked over the million views a while ago, sonner than last season, and the engagement rate of the Series' 173,000 Facebook fans and 43,500 Twitter followers is higher than previous years, demonstrating a hunger for all things Rugby Sevens.
We've also seen some high profile stars joining in on the worldwide conversation about #Sevens including NFL star Nate Ebner, former South African cricketer Herschelle Gibbs and Shane Williams.
— Shane Williams (@ShaneWilliams11) February 8, 2014
Qualifying tournament streamed LIVE to the world!
For Japan, this weekend in Tokyo is big for obvious reasons, but it's also a chance to test the players and their systems ahead of a massive weekend in Hong Kong. Alongside the main 16-team competition, one of 12 regional sides in Hong Kong - American Samoa, Barbados, Chile, Cook Islands, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Russia, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, Uruguay or Zimbabwe - will book a core team place on the whole 2014/15 Series - and with it a chance to qualify directly for Sevens' debut at the Olympic Games in 2016. It's all set to become the most talked-about week online in Sevens, and fans in all those countries will be able to watch the action live on TV or streamed live on irbsevens.com.
And that means plenty of interaction: when a match is on TV, or being watched online, a massive 83% of fans visit social media platforms to consume more information about the event, and we are continuing to see more integration between social media and broadcast.
During 2013, 50 percent of Tweets about TV in the U.S.— a total of 492 million Tweets — were about sporting events. Sports events also comprised 12 of the top 20 most-tweeted-about TV broadcasts during the year in the U.S.* With so much at stake in Hong Kong, I think we can expect the conversation to be just as loud!**
While the teams will be battling it out on the field, the players will also have half an eye on the awards that fans have been voting on throughout the year. The #SevensDreamTeam, #SevensRookie and #FansFaveTry are all entering their final stages of the season, so below is a quick recap.
Scott Curry has been named in three of the five Dream Teams to date by the fans, while four players (Justin Geduld, Joe Webber, Branco du Preez and Sherwin Stowers) have made two.
Twenty-four other players have been named in one Dream Team and there are still four rounds for them to try and make an impact, so make sure you head online and vote using the #SevensDreamTeam hashtag.
Curry's also pretty good at social media too...
— Scott Curry (@Sc0ttCurry) February 8, 2014
Amrbose Curtis has perhaps made the biggest impression of all debutants this season for New Zealand, but there are several other players who are not far behind, including his latest new teammate Akira Ioane and Fiji's Semi Kunitani.
England are also set to blood four new players this weekend, and Samoa at least five, so make sure you vote for who you think is the best of the newcomers at the Prince Chichibu Stadium using #SevensRookie.
You all love tries and so far this season Collins Injera, Emosi Mulevoro, Ignacio Martin, Carlin Isles and Shannon Walker have won the 'fans favourite try' vote to be in line to follow in Pedro Leal's footsteps and win the fans' choice of the 'best try for the season'.
The Fiji try and Spain try have both passed the 50,000 view count on YouTube, but with four tries still to add the choice will come down to the fans at the end of the season. Stay tuned for the seven of the best tries from this weekend and use #FansFaveTry to vote for your favourite try.
Quiz the players
As always, you can send in your questions for the players to @irbsevens throughout the weekend and we will ask them on the live TV feed, or if you have anything else you want to know about the Series then you can reach out to us and we will be more than happy to respond.
* From @twittersports
** Hong Kong (sportklub.tv/hu), Japan (jsports.co.jp), Russia (ntvplus.ru), Tunisia and Zimbabwe (supersport.com)