2015 Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens Set for Kick-off

26 March, 2015

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The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union (HKRFU) celebrated 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.

This year's Sevens is coinciding with the celebrations of 40 Years of Sevens in Hong Kong. The first Hong Kong Sevens kicked off in front of 3,000 spectators at the Hong Kong Football Club on 28 March 1976 with 12 teams participating, including Fiji and Japan, who join Hong Kong as the only teams to have been represented at every tournament over the past 40 years. 120,000 spectators are expected to attend across the three days of the tournament in 2015.

The HKRFU is marking this special occasion with a raft of activities and initiatives designed to celebrate the tournament's rise to international prominence including a musical performance by the Village People, appearances by famed 'Pub Landlord' Al Murray, and expanded cultural performances on-event including an opening ceremony featuring over 200 performers and a worldwide first, Kung Fu Rugby – a remarkable aerial display that blends our favourite sport with Hong Kong's martial arts heritage. Kung Fu Rugby is presented in association with Carlsberg, the official beer of the Hong Kong Sevens.

For the second year running, Hong Kong welcomes a record 28 teams to the Sevens. This year's Sevens will play host to the HSBC Sevens World Series (HSBC SWS) competition amongst the 15 core teams on the Series and Belgium, invited by World Rugby as the 16th team in the core competition. Belgium becomes the 59th nation to have participated in the Hong Kong Sevens since its inception in 1976.

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 as a Core Team on the Sevens World Series in 2015/2016.

Mr Brett Gosper, Chief Executive Officer of World Rugby, said: "Over the last 40 years, Hong Kong has been the game-changer, the game-grower and the game-inspirer – and this wonderful event continues to be a driving force behind the sevens success story.

The HSBC Sevens World Series' winning blend of highly-competitive action, thrilling skills and festival atmosphere is proving a hit with new young audiences, broadcasters and commercial partners around the world. It underscores why we are confident that sevens will be a hit at the Olympics."

South Africa enter the Hong Kong Sevens as the Series leaders on 93 points after collecting wins in Dubai and at their home event. New Zealand, the model of sevens consistency lie in second place (88 points) after winning their home event in Wellington and finishing as runners-up in Las Vegas and South Africa. Fiji are in third place with 86 points after winning the most recent tournament in Las Vegas as well as the Series opener in Australia.

Australia presently hold the crucial fourth spot in the standings, on 71 points. The top four teams in the standings will automatically qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, where Rugby Sevens will make its Olympic debut.

While the battle at the top will be engrossing, Japan, who qualified from last year's promotion tournament also held in Hong Kong, will be looking for a much-improved performance as they seek to move away from the relegation zone.

The bottom-placed team at the end of this season will be relegated, making way for the winner of the Qualifiers this weekend to join the other Core Teams next season.

The continued parity in the Series makes a win in Hong Kong even more important for the teams and a pivotal factor in determining who will run out champions in this year's HSBC SWS. The Cup winner in Hong Kong will receive 22 points towards their Series standings, while the runners-up are awarded 19 points. Third and fourth place finishers receive 17 and 15 points respectively.

A separate 12-team HSBC Sevens World Series qualification tournament will also be played. The 12 qualifier teams (two from each of the six International Rugby Board regions) are Hong Kong and South Korea from Asia, Russia and Spain from Europe, Tonga and Papua New Guinea from Oceania, Tunisia and Zimbabwe from Africa, Mexico and Guyana from North America and the Caribbean, and Uruguay and Brazil from South America.

HKRFU Chairman Mr Pieter Schats noted, "In the year that we celebrate 40 years of the Sevens, it is particularly fitting to welcome 40 competing teams, with 28 teams in the HSBC Sevens World Series Competition and World Series Qualifier as part of the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens and the 12 teams participating in the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Women's Sevens."

As part of the celebrations of 40 Years of Sevens in Hong Kong, the HKRFU is announcing 'The Hong Kong Magnificent Seven' – the top seven international players to have taken the pitch at the hallowed Hong Kong Stadium in So Kon Po over the past four decades.The seventh and final member of this august group will be revealed at tonight's HKRFU Forty Years of Sevens Gala Dinner, and on Saturday the seven men will stand together on the pitch that they made their own, to the acclamation of the Sevens crowd.

Also, the HKRFU has conducted a campaign for the public to vote for the top Hong Kong player to have played in the Sevens since its inception in 1976, with the result to be announced at tonight's dinner.

Attending today's press conference and photo call were Mr Brett Gosper, CEO of World Rugby; Mr Simon Large, General Manager Marketing, Loyalty Programme & CRM, Cathay Pacific Airways; Mr Giles Morgan, Global Head of Sponsorship and Events, HSBC; and Mr Pieter Schats, Chairman of the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union.

The coaches attending today's press conference were Neil Powell of South Africa; Sir Gordon Tietjens of New Zealand; Ben Ryan of Fiji; ex-Wales Sevens star Gareth Baber, the coach of Hong Kong; and Mr José Ignacio Inchausti of Spain.

Seventy men's matches will be played as part of this year's tournament. Matches start at 13.00 on Friday, 09.00 on Saturday and 09.30 on Sunday. The Cup final of the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Women's Rugby Sevens will be played on Friday evening at 17.24 for a total of 71 matches in 2015.

The Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens has again drawn a sold-out attendance of 40,000.

For more information on the 2015 Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens please visit www.hksevens.com

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