The Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) held the official draw for the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2017 and the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series Qualifier this evening at Hysan Place in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong.
Three separate draws were held including that for the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2017 - Round Seven of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, featuring the 15 Series teams plus South Korea, World Rugby’s nominated 16th team.
The draw for the 12-team World Rugby Sevens Series Qualifier, played concurrently with the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournament, was also held, as well as that for the 12-team World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series Qualifier.
Participating guests officiating tonight’s draws included Ms Christine Loh, Under Secretary for the Environment and Mr Yeung Tak Keung, Sports Commissioner, for the Hong Kong Government.
They were joined by Mr Martin Murray, Director of Finance for Cathay Pacific Airways and Mr Kevin Martin, Regional Head of Retail Banking and Wealth Management, Asia Pacific for HSBC. Cathay Pacific Airways and HSBC are the co-title sponsors of the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens. Mr Peter Duncan and Mr Pieter Schats, respectively President and Chairman of the Hong Kong Rugby Union, also officiated tonight’s ceremony.
Entering the backstretch of this year’s Series, the action to date has been compelling. South Africa, winners of four of the six Series events to date, are atop the standings on 126 points, ahead of England (103), winners of the most recent event in Vancouver, and Fiji (100).
With the addition of the Qualifier, the Hong Kong Sevens remains the largest men’s tournament on the series, with 28 teams playing across three days. Including the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series Qualifier, there will be a total of 40 international teams participating in Hong Kong during Sevens Week.
The 2017 Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens tournament will feature 70 men’s matches and for the first time ever, the semi-finals of the Women’s Sevens Series Qualifier will be played in the Hong Kong Stadium, alongside the Cup Final, which has been played in the stadium since 1998, for a total of 73 matches across the weekend.
The debut of Uganda in the men’s Qualifier brings the number of nations that have competed in Hong Kong to 60 since 1976, while the participation of Belgium, Colombia, Italy and Jamaica in the Women’s Qualifier this year means that 41 countries will have been represented in the 20-year history of the women’s sevens tournament here.
This extensive and historic field re-confirms the HKRU tagline: ‘Hong Kong Sevens, Where the World Comes to Play’.
In the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2017, Vancouver champions England will top Pool A, alongside Australia, Samoa and South Korea (invited by World Rugby as the 16th team in Hong Kong). South Africa, runners-up in Canada, are the top seeds in Pool B, joined by Canada, Kenya and France. Fiji, bronze medallists in Vancouver, head up Pool C with New Zealand, Wales and Japan. Finally, USA, fourth-placed finishers in Vancouver, are in Pool D with Argentina, Scotland and Russia.
The winner of the 12-team World Rugby Sevens Series Qualifier, featuring two teams from each of World Rugby’s six regions, will earn promotion to next year’s Series, replacing the bottom-ranked team after the completion of the 2016-17 season. Japan was promoted from last year’s tournament after beating the hosts Hong Kong in the final, 24-14.
The Qualifier teams are Namibia and Uganda (Africa), Guyana and Jamaica (Americas North), Chile and Uruguay (Americas South), Hong Kong and Sri Lanka (Asia), Germany and Spain (Europe), and Papua New Guinea and Tonga (Oceania). The teams from Europe and Oceania remain unchanged from last year’s competition.
For the 12-team men’s Qualifier draw, the teams were banded into four groups of three teams each by World Rugby, based on their performances on the Series and at other international sevens events over the preceding two years. The banded teams were then drawn to complete Pools E, F and G of the tournament. The Series teams and those in the Qualifier will not play against each other.
Pool E features Germany, Tonga, Uganda and Jamaica. Pool F comprises Hong Kong, Chile, Sri Lanka and Namibia, while lining up in Pool G are Spain, Papua New Guinea, Uruguay and Guyana.
Following tonight’s draw, new Hong Kong coach and former Wales Sevens coach and player Paul John said, “It’s obviously a great honour to be coaching Hong Kong. I’m really excited and looking forward to getting involved.
“The countries in the Qualifier are getting stronger and stronger. Looking at our pool alone, Chile have had a good couple of tournaments on the Series so that will be a tough match but I think it’s important to have a few of those in the pool stages.
“It will be a real challenge and it’s always exciting to have the opportunity to play against quality opposition,” John added.
Twelve teams will contest the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series Qualifier in Hong Kong. The tournament marks the 20th consecutive year the international women’s sevens tournament has been held in Hong Kong.
The 12 participating teams were banded into three groups of four and drawn to complete the three pools (A, B and C).
Japan top Pool A alongside Asian rivals China, Netherlands and Jamaica. Argentina lead Pool B with Kenya, Hong Kong and Belgium while South Africa are joined in Pool C by Colombia, Papua New Guinea and Italy.
Hong Kong women’s sevens coach and former New Zealand Black Fern Anna Richards believes Hong Kong have a challenge in their group.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to contest the qualifier at home. The girls are all very excited. They love playing in front of their home crowd and it’s thrilling to have the possibility of going through to the Series.
“I’m pretty happy with our pool. For a moment I thought we might get stuck in all-Asian pool with Japan and China but fortunately we were drawn in Pool B. We came up short last time against Argentina and we played Kenya here a few years ago so it will be good to have another crack at both of those teams,” said Richards.
Mr Kevin Martin of HSBC said, “HSBC is proud to be a co-title sponsor of the Hong Kong Sevens and the worldwide sponsor of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. Over the years, we have witnessed the series grow from strength to strength, and it is only getting bigger and better.
“The Hong Kong Sevens is not only a showpiece event for the series, but for the city. HSBC is committed to both Hong Kong and the sport of rugby, and it is heartening to see the growth of the game at both the grassroots and elite levels.
“We are delighted to welcome the best players and fans from all around the world, including the Hong Kong Rugby Team, who we proudly support,” added Mr Martin.
Mr Martin Murray of Cathay Pacific said, “As Hong Kong’s home carrier, Cathay Pacific Airways has been a strong supporter of the Sevens since the inaugural event in 1976. We are both proud and delighted to have played our part in turning the Sevens into the iconic event it is today.
“Our marketing theme for this year’s Hong Kong Sevens is ‘Connecting the World to Sevens Fun’, and we will be building up the buzz beginning with our latest TV commercial – featuring our wonderful cabin crew as they spread rugby fun everywhere they go.
“We look forward to welcoming all of the fans to the Hong Kong Stadium next month for the best three days on Hong Kong’s sporting calendar,” added Mr Murray.
The Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens will be played from 7-9 April 2017 at the sold-out 40,000-seat Hong Kong Stadium. For more information please visit the official website at hksevens.com.