HK rugby team chase sun to lift ranking
In a bid to boost their world ranking, Hong Kong will shun snowbound Europe and go to Dubai next month to take part in a new tournament that will also feature Brazil, Kenya and hosts the United Arab Emirates.
The tournament, the brainchild of the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union and its counterpart in the UAE, will become an annual event with plans to expand it to six countries next year.
'For the past two years we have gone to Europe and got frozen out there with games being cancelled. It was not appropriate to continue going to Europe and instead we looked elsewhere, and decided that Dubai was the perfect venue,' HKRFU chairman Trevor Gregory said.
The initiative struck a chord with the newly formed UAE Rugby Association.
'We were looking at teams from Europe and Africa, but the International Rugby Board was keen for Brazil to take part as they are doing everything to push the game there in the run-up to the 2016 Olympics,' Gregory said. 'We are happy to give a helping hand.'
The tournament to be played at The Sevens - the venue of the Dubai Sevens - will see Hong Kong play three games against the UAE on December 9, Kenya four days later and Brazil on December 16.
'This tournament will not only give Hong Kong the perfect build-up to the HSBC Asian Five Nations Top Five tournament, but it will also give us vital competition against teams ranked close to us,' Gregory said.
The UAE, who also figure in the Top Five competition, are not yet a member of the IRB. Brazil are ranked 29th, two places behind Hong Kong, while Kenya are 40th.
'We have to start focusing on our world ranking. This will be important as we saw during the last qualifying campaign for the World Cup. The repechage game was a one-off leg where the host team was decided on which team had the higher ranking,' Gregory said.
Hong Kong coach Dai Rees welcomed the 'exciting development'.
'This is another step up the ladder for us and having all games in one place is very convenient. It is an exciting initiative,' he said.
Meanwhile, the flood crisis in Bangkok has forced the postponement of the third leg of the HSBC Asian Sevens Series next weekend. But the action continues with Hong Kong taking part in the inaugural Goa Sevens (November 19 and 20), and two events on the Gold Coast, Australia - the Noosa International Sevens (November 12 and 13) and the Gold Coast Sevens (November 25 and 26).