Teams Announced for Cathay Pacific / HSBC Women’s Sevens in 2015

Argentina and Mexico debut as 38th and 39th nations since 1997

29 January 2015

The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union (HKRFU) today announced the participating teams and a new two-day format for the Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Women's Rugby Sevens (HKWRS) in 2015.

Hong Kong Women's Rugby Sevens coach Anna Richards expressed her excitement about the new format saying, "The Hong Kong Sevens is our showcase event and the move to a two-day tournament makes the competition much more competitive and attractive to the international teams."

Twelve international teams will take part this March as the Hong Kong Women's Rugby Sevens marks its 18th year, making it one of the world's longest running and most established international women's rugby competitions. The tournament will be held on Thursday and Friday, 26-27 March.

In 2015, the tournament will host eleven national teams from five continents: Argentina, defending champions Canada, China, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Mexico, Netherlands, Samoa, Singapore and Tunisia.

Argentina and Mexico will be on debut at the Hong Kong Women's Rugby Sevens, becoming the 38th and 39th international unions to take part in Hong Kong since 1997. Despite making their tournament debut, the teams are no strangers to Hong Kong after appearing in the World Rugby Women's Sevens Series qualifiers held here last September.

"The field looks very strong this year," said Richards. "We've seen several of the teams recently in the qualifiers in Hong Kong and we are of course very familiar with the Asian teams."

"Canada have gotten even better over the past year and I think they will return as the tournament favourites, but it will be interesting to see how China have progressed since their Women's Sevens Series debut in Dubai. I think that was a big step up for them, but they always do well in Hong Kong.

As does the Hong Kong Women's Sevens team, who took the silver medal at the ARFU Asian Sevens series tournament in Hong Kong last summer.

"The squad is very excited about the competition ahead. The girls love playing at home and it is a great opportunity for them to showcase the improvements we've made over the past year," said Richards.

Due to a lack of available pitches during Rugby Week in Hong Kong, the tournament will be played at two venues to accommodate the new two-day format. The first day of the tournament, (Thursday Mar 26) will be held at King's Park while Friday's (Mar 27) action will be played at the Hong Kong Football Club before moving up to the Hong Kong Stadium for the cup final.

In keeping with the HKRFU'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 men's Hong Kong Sevens since 1999.

This year, the final will be played under the lights at the Hong Kong Stadium at 17.42. The women's final will be held immediately prior to the men's Sevens' opening ceremony, which has been moved to later in the day on Friday to accommodate an expanded performance marking the celebrations of the 40 th anniversary of rugby sevens in Hong Kong in 2015.

"The Hong Kong women's rugby community is delighted to host 11 of the top teams from around the world this March and we look forward to once again showcasing world-class women's rugby to the 40,000 fans inside the Stadium on Friday night of the men's Sevens,"

said Ms Ruth Mitchell, tournament director for the HKWRS and director of development for the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union.

Canada and China are presently the only core teams competing in Hong Kong with berths on the 12-team World Rugby Women's Sevens Series.

Canada, twice defending Hong Kong Women's Rugby Sevens champions and presently ranked third on the international series after one tournament, will enter Hong Kong as the favourites to defend their title.

Canada beat France 10-5 to take third place in Dubai. That game was a re-match of the cup final from last year's Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Women's Rugby Sevens when Canada won 24-0 to become the first back-to-back Hong Kong Women's Rugby Sevens champions since the format changed to accommodate only international teams in the early 2000s.

As always, Asia is well represented in the Hong Kong Women's Rugby Sevens with the hosts Hong Kong, China, Japan, Kazakhstan and Singapore all taking part. China and Japan finished as Asia's top two sides in 2014 and are closely followed by Hong Kong (third overall in Asia), Kazakhstan and Singapore.

2014 Asian champions China are currently in 12th place on the World Rugby Women's Sevens Series after the opening event in Dubai. China will be hoping to repeat their performance at the Asian Rugby Football Union's sevens tournament in Hong Kong last summer when they took the cup en route to winning the ARFU Asian Women's Sevens series in 2014.

"The Hong Kong Women's Rugby Sevens fills an important place on the international calendar giving teams on the international series the opportunity to prepare for the fourth round in Canada in April, while providing Asia's top teams with vital exposure to international competition," said Mitchell.

"Closer to home, the tournament involves girls from every level of our women's rugby community with domestic matches included in the schedule and opportunities for young players to volunteer as team liaison officers, ball girls and runners.

"We want to ensure that the tournament provides an opportunity for younger players to experience the excitement of sevens and inspires them to stay involved in rugby and take their game to the elite level," Mitchell added.