Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens Set for Kick-off
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.
This year's Sevens will provide an interesting dress rehearsal for Rugby Sevens' debut at the Olympic Games in Rio in August with all eleven presently qualified men's teams taking part in a three-day format that will replicate the Games competition in Brazil.A further 11 of the 16 teams taking part in the final men's Olympic qualifier in Monaco in June are also participating at the sold-out Hong Kong Stadium this weekend.
Hong Kong welcomes 28 teams to the Sevens. This year's Sevens will play host to the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series competition amongst the 15 core teams on the Series and South Korea, invited by World Rugby as the 16th team in the core 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. Cayman Islands become the 60th nation to have participated in the Hong Kong Sevens since its inception in 1976.
120,000 spectators are expected to attend across the three days of the tournament in 2016, which will push total attendance on this year's Series past half a million spectators, according to World Rugby Competitions & Events Manager for Sevens Douglas Langley.
"What a series we've had so far - by every measure it has been the biggest and best yet. It is no coincidence that this weekend already we will pass 500,000 spectators, and ultimately smash the total attendance record for the season by close to 150,000.
"And what a spectacle the fans have watched... On the pitch, it could not be tighter at the top, with three points separating the top three sides - Fiji, South Africa and New Zealand - but all the teams and athletes continue to do the sport proud," Langley said.
Fiji enter Hong Kong as the Series leaders on 106 points, one ahead of second-placed South Africa who are in turn one point ahead of hard-charging New Zealand, winners of three of the last four tournaments played. A resurgent Australia and an emerging United States round out the top five spots on the Series.
The 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 Series champions. 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 World Rugby Sevens Series qualification tournament will also be played.
The 12 qualifier teams (two from each of the six World Rugby regions) are Hong Kong and Japan from Asia, Germany and Spain from Europe, Tonga and Papua New Guinea from Oceania, Morocco and Zimbabwe from Africa, Mexico and Cayman Islands from North America and the Caribbean, and Brazil and Chile from South America.
HKRU Chairman Mr Pieter Schats noted, "The continued development of all of the teams on the World Series points to another fascinating tournament ahead and an even more exciting prospect when Rugby Sevens makes its Olympic debut in Rio in August. This weekend's competition will provide a glimpse of the excitement ahead for the Olympic family with all 11 of the 12 qualified teams for Rio taking the pitch in Hong Kong."
Attending today's press conference and photo call were Douglas Langley of World Rugby; Julian Lyden, General Manager Marketing, Loyalty Programme & CRM, Cathay Pacific Airways; Ophelia Quach, Senior Sponsorship Manager, Global Marketing Centre, HSBC; and Pieter Schats, Chairman of the HKRU.
The coaches attending today's press conference were Ben Ryan of Fiji, Neil Powell of South Africa; Sir Gordon Tietjens of New Zealand, and Hong Kong Sevens coach and former Wales Sevens international Gareth Baber.Seventy men's matches will be played as part of this year's tournament. The Cup final of the Hong Kong Women's Rugby Sevens will be played on Friday evening at 17.24 for a total of 71 matches. The Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2016 has sold out for a 13th consecutive year.For more information on the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens please visit www.hksevens.com