HK boosted by new sevens leg in Tokyo
Hong Kong's chances of playing in more than one event in the HSBC World Sevens Series have increased with the International Rugby Board announcing that Tokyo will host a new leg next season.
In its new schedule announced yesterday, the board said Tokyo would be added to the existing eight-leg series. It will be played the week after the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens on March 23-25.
IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset said the decision was part of the governing body's move to invest US$3 million annually in development across Asia. 'The IRB is committed to ensuring all the processes are in place for the continued development of the sport throughout the region so that even more men, women and children can enjoy rugby,' he said.
Working in collaboration with the Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU), the board is investing in development, high performance and tournament programmes across Asia. The awarding of this tournament to Japan is a key step.
There was wide expectation that the world series would be expanded to 10 stops, but it is believed the current global economic woes played a part in the board deciding to increase it by just one tournament.
With available spots at a premium - apart from the Hong Kong tournament which is a 24-team event, every other leg will remain a 16-team competition - Hong Kong has struggled to get a berth in other tournaments.
'The HKRFU is hopeful that another Asian tournament will create additional opportunities for Asian teams to take part in all three Asian legs of the HSBC World Sevens Series,' chairman Trevor Gregory said.
The HSBC Asian Sevens Series - Shanghai later this month and Borneo in October - will decide the rankings, with it likely that only the top two teams in Asia will be in the running for a Tokyo place.
'We are hopeful a spot will be available for Hong Kong, but that would depend on the Asian Sevens Series rankings in terms of who goes where,' an ARFU spokesman said.