Hong Kong set to host world of Rugby Sevens
The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union celebrated the arrival of the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens with a clash of cymbals and a performance of Yueju Chinese Opera as all 28 captains came together ahead of the biggest tournament of them all this weekend.
For the second year running Hong Kong welcomes 28 teams, with 16 to play for the famous old Cup trophy and points towards the HSBC Sevens World Series, and the other 12 bidding to win the separate qualifier trophy and take the one place on offer as a core team for the 2014/15 Series.
Having finished in the top two of Asia's own regional Sevens competition, host Hong Kong is one of those 12 vying nations and harbours serious ambition to join the Series.
"There's a long way to go but qualifying as a core team would accelerate the learning in Hong Kong by playing at that competitive level more often. It would also accelerate the numbers coming into the game, and make them realise as well that there's a potential to be an international athlete playing Rugby Sevens for Hong Kong," said Hong Kong's Sevens coach, Gareth Baber.
Hong Kong start in pool play with matches against Italy, Tunisia and American Samoa. Russia are drawn with Zimbabwe, China and Barbados, while Asia's top-ranked side Japan starts in a group with Cook Islands, Uruguay and Trinidad & Tobago.
"We have to treat this like any other event. I know there's a lot of emotion wrapped around it, and there's a big party atmosphere, but the message going out loud and clear to the players is that we need consistency in what we do and not to get carried away with the emotion.
"You need to play with emotion as a rugby player, but it's tempering that with the ability to think clearly and do consistently what you do on the training paddock.
"I'm confident my players can make that step up (from failing to qualify as a core team last year), but there are a number of other teams who are going to be thinking exactly the same. We have a competition on our hands, and that's why everyone is interested in it."
Once again the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens has sold out its three-day attendance of over 120,000 spectators and with the two competitions happening side by side 70 matches will be played in all.
SA, NZ & Fiji favourites for Cup honours
In the main Cup draw, with two tournament wins apiece in this season's HSBC Sevens World Series, South Africa, New Zealand and Fiji are the frontrunners for major Cup honours at So Kon Po.
MATCH SCHEDULE & POOLS - MAIN CUP DRAW >>
Fiji have won 14 times in Hong Kong, including last year, and also took the most recent Cup title with a superb win over South Africa at the Tokyo Sevens last Sunday.
South Africa have never won the Hong Kong title but are currently top of the Series standings with 116 points, two ahead of New Zealand with Fiji in third place on 95 and England fourth on 85.
Avan Lee, IRB General Manager Sevens, said: “The Hong Kong Sevens is not only an iconic event for Rugby, it is a truly iconic global sporting event and all the teams love coming here.
“Our thanks go to the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union also for hosting the World Series qualifier event, which we are hugely excited about. One of these 12 regional teams here will win promotion to core status on the 2014/2015 Series, and both Hong Kong and Japan have a real chance.
"The incentive has also never been greater with next year’s Series also qualifying four teams directly into the 2016 Rio Olympics. It is a hugely exciting time for the global game of Rugby Sevens.”
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