The Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) today confirmed that the long-running Hong Kong Women’s Rugby Sevens tournament, marking its 20th year in 2017, will give way to a World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series Qualifier tournament this year.
Twelve teams from the six World Rugby regions will take part in the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series Qualifier on Thursday and Friday, 6-7 April, at So Kon Po, across from the Hong Kong Stadium.
The 12 participating teams are South Africa and Kenya (Africa), Jamaica (Americas North), Argentina and Colombia (Americas South), Japan, China and hosts Hong Kong (Asia), Belgium, Italy and The Netherlands (Europe) and Papua New Guinea (Oceania).
Belgium, Colombia, Italy and Jamaica are on debut in Hong Kong, bringing the total number of nations to have participated in the international women’s sevens tournament here to 41 over the past two decades.
Three of the participating teams qualified for the 12-team Rugby Sevens tournament at the Rio 2016 Olympics: Kenya, Colombia and Japan, although none of them advanced to the knock-out stages in Brazil.
Hong Kong coach Anna Richards is excited at the prospect of playing the Qualifier at home.
“The quality of the teams is great and the opportunity to contest the qualifier at home is all that you could ask for as a coach. It’s added pressure, of course, but also added excitement.”
“Hong Kong is iconic for Sevens, so hosting the women’s qualifier here is great for the development of the game. The more Women’s events that can be played alongside the men’s tournaments the better,” Richards added.
In keeping with the milestone, the Hong Kong Rugby Union has confirmed that for the first time ever the Cup Semi Finals will be played as part of the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens in the Hong Kong Stadium, joining the Cup Final, which has been played in-stadium since 1999.
Both the Semi Finals and the Final will be played on Friday, 7 April, in front of an expected capacity crowd of 40,000 inside the Hong Kong Stadium.
The winner will be promoted to the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series in 2017/18, replacing the bottom-placed team on the series after the final event in Clermont-Ferrand, France in June.
The official draw for the tournament will be held on Monday, 13 March, in Hong Kong.
With stakes high next month, Richards has ensured that the squad have had a more active build-up this year. The team travelled to New Zealand to train with the New Zealand Development squad last month, and will depart for another training camp in Japan later this week.
“New Zealand was really good for us. We wanted to play against some bigger and more physical opposition to replicate what we will see next month.
“And we footed it really well. They had a lot of quality players in the team in New Zealand, including four contracted players and one Olympian, so it was a really good build-up.
“We were right in there in those matches and I think the girls gained a lot of confidence. If we can play like that next month, then I would give us a good chance to make a Semi Final,” Richards said.
If they can achieve that feat Hong Kong would make its first ever appearance inside the Stadium during Sevens weekend. Richards knows that task will be challenging.
“To advance we will need to finish in the top two in our pool, so we will need a bit of luck in the draw on Monday night, but we have had a good build-up so far and the girls are very focused.
“If we can keep building on what we achieved in New Zealand, we can enter the tournament with a lot of confidence.”
Hong Kong Squad for Japan Training Camp
Amelie SEURE, Adrienne GARVEY, CHAN Tsz-ching, Christy CHENG Ka-chi, CHENG Tsz-ting, CHONG Ka-yan, Christine GORDON, Colleen TJOSVOLD, KWONG Sau-yan, NAM Ka-man, Natasha OLSON-THORNE, POON Pak-yan, SHAM Wai-sum, YUEN Lok-yee.