Hong Kong 'let down' by IRB's Women's Sevens snub

The world body has disappointed Hong Kong officials by ignoring a request for the city to host a leg of the first Women's Sevens World Series

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 October, 2012, 3:40am

Hong Kong has been "badly let down" by the International Rugby Board after being overlooked as a venue for the inaugural IRB Women's Sevens World Series despite being a pioneering force behind the development of the women's game, says rugby union chairman Trevor Gregory.

The IRB announced the first ever series for women will be played in four destinations but has ignored the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union's request to host a leg in preference for Guangzhou.

"We are more than a little disappointed, and we have made it known to the IRB in no uncertain terms," said Gregory. "We have run the premier women's sevens tournament in the world for the past 15 years and we offered to be host and to have the event run alongside the men's Hong Kong Sevens. To be ignored is a huge let-down."

To add insult to injury, the IRB has given Dubai the right to host the women's sevens alongside the men's event, which is one of the nine legs in the HSBC Sevens World Series.

"We believed that the IRB wanted to keep both the men's and women's events separate as they wanted to take the game to new destinations so initially we didn't mind when we heard that Hong Kong wouldn't host a leg. But we were surprised to find Dubai will continue to host both a men's and women's tournament. It's very disappointing," Gregory said.

In a bid to develop and continue the growth of women's rugby, and with an eye on the Rio Olympics in 2016 when sevens will be a medal sport, the IRB announced the inaugural Women's Sevens World Series will feature rounds in Dubai (November 30-December 1), Houston, Texas, (February 1-2, 2013), Guangzhou (March 30-31) and Amsterdam (May 17-18). The IRB yesterday denied it had overlooked Hong Kong, and said the city could not support a 12-strong women's tournament as well as a 28-team men's event.

"The number of women's teams will be 12 and there is a set formula of competition which requires 34 matches to be played over two days," sevens tournament operations manger Beth Coalter said. "With the number of other social events taking place in Hong Kong there isn't a stadium to hold the competition in close proximity to the men's event, sufficient changing rooms or enough timing for these 34 matches to be played.

"The pressure on training pitches is also extremely high and there are insufficient good-quality grounds for the men's series teams as well as the women's teams as it is - 28 men's teams is going to test the number of pitches already available."

The series will mirror the men's with each 12-team tournament featuring six core teams who will play across all four legs. Six teams will be invited based on regional tournament rankings.

The Hong Kong women's sevens team are expected to be invited for the Guangzhou leg, which will take place at the 2010 Asian Games venue. The six core teams for the inaugural series are Australia, Canada, England, Netherlands, New Zealand and the United States.

The IRB was due to launch this series last year with three legs in Dubai, Hong Kong and London. But plans fell through and it was postponed for one season, and instead the IRB went ahead with the Women's Sevens Challenge Cup with stops in Dubai and Hong Kong.

"We backed the IRB last year and felt we would be involved when things fell into place this year, but sadly we have been overlooked," Gregory said.

Hong Kong will continue to hold its annual women's sevens at the same time as the men's event and the HKRFU hopes teams flying to Guangzhou for the China leg the week after the Hong Kong Sevens will stop over.

"We hope the top women's teams in the world like England, Australia and New Zealand will come and play here," Gregory said.

Next year the inaugural Asian Women's Sevens Series will kick off in Shanghai and Pune, India.