Core-team status huge step for Rees' squad
Becoming a core world-series team would have big implications for the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union, as the team would be forced to once again look at the issue of contracting players full time.
HKRFU head of performance and national coach Dai Rees said it would be a 'whole new ball game' if the sevens team finished in the top three of the second-tier competition next month.
'This move by the IRB is fantastic and it will be a massive incentive for the players, but if we qualify then it becomes a whole new ball game. We will then have to look at having full-time players,' Rees said.
'We had always hoped we could play in more than one event, possibly three or four, in the world series. But playing in all nine tournaments next year calls for more players and more resources.
'We will have to take it one step at a time. First we have to qualify, so we will keep the other issue [on the backburner] until after March.'
The HKRFU dabbled with contracting players full time a few seasons ago when a handful, including Rowan Varty, Keith Robertson and Mark Wright were handed full-time contracts. But this was canned after one season.
Qualifying for the elite group will be a mountain in itself, as many of the teams are of a high calibre. Canada, a core team until a couple of seasons ago; Tonga, who defeated Fiji in Wellington last week and reached the Cup competition; and Russia, who reached the Cup competition at the Hong Kong Sevens last year before going down to England 10-7 in the quarter-finals, are three of the teams standing in Hong Kong's way.
'Yes, it is a big task, as many of these sides will be very competitive. But we can take heart from having beaten many of them in the past. We have one of the strongest teams in many years and with this huge incentive, the guys will be up for it.
'Playing at home will also be an advantage,' Rees said.
Asia will be represented by four teams in the second-tier competition - Japan, Hong Kong, China and the Philippines.
Hong Kong will begin their build-up this weekend at the Bangkok Sevens, the postponed third leg of the HSBC Asian Sevens Series last year.