The Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) counted down to the start of the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens with the Captains Photo and Coaches Press Conference at Marco Polo Hotel, the official hotel of the Hong Kong Sevens.
Hong Kong welcomes 40 teams in 2017. The Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens will play host to the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series competition amongst the 15 teams participating in every tournament this season and South Korea, invited by World Rugby as the 16th team in the Series competition.
A 12-team international qualifier competition featuring two teams from each of World Rugby’s six regions will also be held this weekend. The winner of that competition will be promoted to next year’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
And on the staging of the 20th annual Hong Kong Women’s Rugby Sevens, Hong Kong has been granted the honour of hosting the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series Qualifier. The winner of the 12-team tournament will be promoted to next season’s HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series.
“In the immediate aftermath of Rio we saw an estimated 16.8 million new fans follow Rugby Sevens and in the previous six rounds, we’ve seen tournaments play out to huge global TV audiences, social media figures averaging 8 million video views per round and passionate and energetic fans at the events themselves… and I am sure that the spectacle Hong Kong will again give us will further assist in ensuring those new fans are captured in the Game,” said World Rugby Competitions & Events Manager for Sevens Douglas Langley.
“Hong Kong is one of the most anticipated stops on the series and one of the most iconic, exciting and energetic events that World Rugby are proud to be associated with,” Langley added.
With 73 matches and non-stop entertainment including a live performance from British rock legends Madness inside the stadium another spectacle is ensured for the capacity crowds.
South Africa enter Hong Kong as the class of the Series so far and a model of consistency, reaching all six finals to date and winning four of them.
Their losses have come at the hands of crowd favourites England, who won the last tournament in Vancouver with a blistering display. Dan Norton enters the tournament level with Kenya’s Collins Injera on 244 tries and could set the all-time try scoring record on Friday evening when England face South Korea in the opening pool matches.
Fiji, under new coach Gareth Baber, formerly of the hosts Hong Kong Rugby Union, lie in third place on the Series with Baber’s side honing in on the form that took them to Olympic gold. With Fiji owning a record 16 Hong Kong Sevens cup titles, Baber will be hoping for a successful return to his old stomping grounds as Fiji hunts for their first win of the season.
Even a re-building New Zealand side can never be counted out and enter under interim coach Scott Waldrom after the departure of Sir Gordon Tietjens for Samoa after Rio. The fans in the Stadium will be facing an unusual prospect of seeing Fiji and New Zealand battle it out on a Saturday rather than Sunday night for the first time in recent memory when two pool-mates face off at 17.12.
The 12 qualifier teams (two from each of the six World Rugby regions) are Hong Kong and Sri Lanka from Asia, Germany and Spain from Europe, Tonga and Papua New Guinea from Oceania, Uganda and Namibia from Africa, Guyana and Jamaica from North America and Chile and Uruguay from South America.
Attending today’s photo call were the captains of all 28 men’s teams and Mr Agustin Pichot, Vice-Chairman of World Rugby; Mr Dane Cheng, Director, Sales and Marketing for Cathay Pacific Airways; Mr Sven Gloor, Senior Manager, Global Rugby Strategy and Planning, HSBC and Pieter Schats, Chairman of the HKRU.
The coaches attending today’s press conference were Neil Powell of South Africa; Gareth Baber of Fiji, Simon Amor of England, Sir Gordon Tietjens of Samoa, and Hong Kong Sevens coach and former Wales Sevens coach Paul John.
Seventy men’s matches will be played as part of this year’s tournament. The semi finals and cup final of the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series Qualifier will be played on Friday for a total of 73 matches.The Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2017 has sold out for a 14th consecutive year. For more information on the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens please visit www.hksevens.com