Participating Teams announced for Hong Kong Women’s Rugby Sevens 2016

Competition will provide vital warm-up for Hong Kong and three other teams ahead of Olympic repechage tournament in Ireland in June

10 March, 2016


The Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) today announced the teams participating in the Hong Kong Women's Rugby Sevens 2016 (HKWRS).

Ten international teams will take part as the HKWRS marks its 19th year, making it the world's longest running international women's rugby sevens competition. Nine national teams from four continents alongside hosts Hong Kong will take part in the competition: Argentina, China, France, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

Ms Ruth Mitchell, tournament director for the HKWRS and director of development for the HKRU commented on the competition, a subject she is very familiar with, having captained the Hong Kong team in several HKWRS tournaments.

"I'm excited at how the tournament has progressed over the years. Hong Kong is the longest established women's sevens tournament in the world and we have had 38 international teams participate over the past 19 years. This year, for the first time, all of the teams have played in the tournament before, so we can expect a high standard of play and with plenty of Asian teams involved, the rivalry is sure to be intense," Mitchell said.

Of the participating teams, France, Kenya and Japan have already qualified for the Rio Summer Games in August, when Rugby will return to the Olympics for the first time since 1924.

France and Japan are also participating on the HSBC Women's Sevens Series this season with France in fourth place in the standings and Japan eleventh of the 12 core teams. Both teams have figured in recent HKWRS Cup finals. Japan lost to Canada, 19-12, last year while France was beat by Canada, 24-0, in 2014.

Argentina, China, Kazakhstan and Hong Kong will compete in the Olympic repechage tournament in Dublin in June, making the HKWRS an important preparation event for the final stage of Olympic qualification. The winner in Dublin will be the 12th and final team to qualify for the Women's Rugby Sevens competition at the Rio Games.

As always, Asia is well represented with the hosts Hong Kong, China, Japan, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka and Thailand all taking part. Japan and China finished first and second in Asia last season with Hong Kong hot on their heels in third place in the region.

Hong Kong Women's Sevens coach Anna Richards commented on the field assembled saying, "There is a good range of teams this year with sides from Africa, Europe and South America, alongside the top teams from Asia. It's always good to get a chance to play against teams with different styles then those we see in the region and it will be helpful for us as prepare for the Olympic qualifier in Ireland where there will be 16 teams from all over the world."

In keeping with the HKRU's commitment to supporting the development of women's rugby in Hong Kong and around the world, the HKWRS cup final has been played as part of the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens since 1999.

"The women are included in all facets of the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, not just playing in the cup final, but we also participate in the famous March Past. Being able to showcase the skill and strength of the women's game on the international stage at the Sevens has helped raise awareness of women's rugby around the world," Mitchell said.

Last year, Hong Kong narrowly missed out on reaching their first cup final, advancing to the semi-finals after dispatching a slew of Asian opponents, including then Asian champions China and Kazakhstan, in the pool stages.

Hong Kong went on to beat Samoa in the quarterfinal before losing the semi 10-5 to Japan. Another close result went against the hosts when they lost the third place play-off to the Netherlands, 14-7. It was Hong Kong's best ever performance in the HKWRS and set the stage for a strong run in the Asia Rugby Women's Sevens series later in the year.

"We got on a roll last year with a great start on the opening day when we beat China and Kazakhstan. Those performances gave us the self-belief we needed to go out and compete both on day two and later in the year on the Asian series.

"We will need another fast start this year so a lot will be riding on what pool we are drawn in as we need to finish either first or second in our group to advance to the cup," Richards said. The tournament draw for the HKWRS will be held alongside the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens draw on Monday, 14 March.

Complicating matters for Richards is a lack of warm-up events for the women's team ahead of the HKWRS:"Last year we had two tournaments in the build up to the sevens, but this year we don't have any. We've been training really hard and are working closely with the Sports Science team at the Hong Kong Sports Institute, but I know the girls are excited about the prospect of our first tournament action since November last year."

Richards has had to get creative to accentuate the build-up campaign. The sevens training squad will play a series of training games against a touring side from Princeton University on March 16.

Richards, a former New Zealand international, has also negotiated with the New Zealand Rugby Union to organise a group of New Zealand Sevens development players who the HKRU are flying up to Hong Kong, where they will mix with top local players in a Barbarians format, for a two-day training camp at the Hong Kong Sports Institute on March 19 and 20.

The tournament will be held on Thursday and Friday, (7-8 April) with the opening day's action at Kings Park in Kowloon. Day Two will be held at the Hong Kong Football Club (8 April) with the final once again being held beneath the lights at the Hong Kong Stadium as a main focus of the opening day of the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.