Hong Kong sevens side get World Games slot
IRB invite to multisport event in Colombia offers chance for city's team to pit their wits against likes of Argentina, Fiji and South Africa
Hong Kong's stock in the global sevens scene continues to rise with the International Rugby Board inviting the Rowan Varty-led team to take part in the World Games in Colombia in August.
The World Games is a major international multisport event for non-Olympic disciplines that takes place every four years and is officially recognised by the International Olympic Committee.
Only eight teams will take part in the rugby sevens competition, and the IRB usually picks the top-ranked teams from each region, but can also invite participants based on the strategic interests of the game.
"We have been invited solely on merit, being the reigning Asian champions," said Trevor Gregory, Hong Kong Rugby Football Union chairman. "It also shows the regard with which Hong Kong is held on the international stage, thanks especially to our performance at this year's Hong Kong Sevens, which opened the eyes of many."
Hong Kong finished 10th in the 16-team core competition, acquiring seven points, which was more than heavyweights like South Africa, France and Scotland. In one the finest performances in the history of the tournament, Hong Kong defeated Argentina 7-5 and the United States 20-12 to reach the Bowl final against England.
It was the first time Hong Kong had played in a final in the IRB Sevens World Series.
With spirits high, Varty and company are preparing for next month's London Sevens, the qualifying tournament to decide the three core teams next season. They will also take part at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow at the end of June. But the curtain will stay raised on an eventful season with the rugby competition at the World Games to be held on August 1-2 in Cali.
"It just keeps coming thick and fast. But this is a fantastic privilege, to be playing in the World Games where sevens will be staged for the last time," said Hong Kong national coach Dai Rees, who on Monday won team coach of the year at the Hong Kong Coaching Awards for the third time in a row.
With rugby sevens being part of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the sport will not qualify for future World Games.
"We took part at the last Games too, in 2009, in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, but that was more by default after China pulled out. We were given just two weeks' notice, and went with a scratch side and just made up numbers. But this time we will be taking our strongest side available," Rees said.
The eight teams taking part this time are Fiji, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, South Africa, Hong Kong and France.
"It's going to be a tough assignment as there are five teams who are core teams in the World Series. But we have beaten most of these sides in the past, Argentina a few weeks ago, and only Fiji and South Africa stand out. It is another great opportunity to test ourselves against some of the world's best," Rees added.