Squeezed out of our own event: World Rugby restricts media from Hong Kong Sevens ceremonies

Governing body delivers slap in the face of the people who helped make the Sevens a success, then grants access

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 April, 2017, 5:17pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 April, 2017, 11:41pm

There are many ways freedom of the press is abused and World Rugby rubbed the media up the wrong way yesterday, especially the local ones who have supported, promoted and defended the Hong Kong Sevens for decades. An announcement before the finals that the media were not allowed to photograph the winning teams when they lift the various trophies, because it seems the television people have priority, didn’t go down well, especially with the SCMP.

We were initially banished from directly in front of the Hong Kong Rugby Union box to the sides of the pitch for the five finals – Cup, Plate, Bowl, Shield and the World Series qualifier. It was a real slap in the face. The tournament that started it all, that enabled World Rugby to launch its World Series, was treating the people who help promote it shoddily.

Access to shooting vantage points has become increasingly restricted with it almost impossible to photograph the players running out of the tunnel and on to the pitch.

While the Hong Kong Rugby Union stayed quiet, World Rugby came to their senses and gave our photographers access but the damage had been done. Nazvi Careem

It’s Sunday . . . and that belongs to Fiji

Sunday, brilliant Sunday. This tournament was flat and fairly forgettable, if we’re honest, until the final day. Every game in the Cup was a cracker. Fiji were magnificent in every match, beating Canada, Australia and South Africa for an 84-12 aggregate.

The USA were terrific, with the thrillingly fast Perry Baker scoring in every game. They were very unlucky not to reach the final, losing in extra time to South Africa. New Zealand, the Aussies and the Blitzboks all treated us to some wonderful action.

But as is so often the case in Hong Kong, Fiji were playing a different game to everyone else as they earned their first win of the season. This is the tournament they want to win most – and in doing so they helped raise the 2017 Hong Kong Sevens to a different level, too. James Porteous

Beware the rise and rise of Team USA

The first sign was Perry Baker out there crossing for tries seemingly at will and torching across the turf. The man crossed the line in every single game he played. Then there was the fact that the Americans marched into the semi-finals on the back of a monstrous game that leaned on Perry, for sure, but had Madison Hughes here there and everywhere.

The chants of U.S.A that rang out from the South Stand all weekend were the final proof positive that the Americans have been taken to heart at the home of the game, and their results continue to improve as they find more consistency.

Baker has been the heart of that development – a latecomer to rugby who now thrills to the chants, and to the opportunities. “The chants have been happening everywhere we go now,” said Baker. “The fans all over the world have warmed to us and we are just improving as individuals and as a team.”

The future, Stateside, is looking very bright indeed. Mathew Scott

Germans have the craftwork

It’s a matter of when, not if, for the Germans. While Hong Kong made it to the decider last year and slipped to a quarter-final exit in this year’s qualifying competition, it’s hard to see Germany taking a backward step. They all but made the World Series this time around, falling only to Spain in a nail-biter that could have gone either way. The Oktoberfest Sevens in Munich in September is proof of just how serious they are about improving, with Germany hosting Australia, Argentina and other top World Series teams on their home turf. The Germans were just one of a number of sides that impressed on a weekend that showed the World Series qualifying competition must forever remain in Hong Kong. Not that there is any indication that it won’t, but it is clear for all to see just how much every team participating in the qualifier loves the experience. Witnessing the Ugandans dance and the likes of Guyana and Jamaica soak up the atmosphere in the cauldron that is Hong Kong Stadium was a sight to behold. Long may these up and coming sides get to strut their stuff at the home of sevens. Sam Agars

I’d give my shirt for the Sevens

A retired Englishman sitting in the East Stand near the ‘nosebleeds’ came to the Sevens lugging 22 different T-shirts. Rather than the veritable coals to Newcastle, it represented his ‘take’ on the tournament. Pulling on the relevant shirt for each team playing was his salute to the spirit of the Sevens. Traipsing and traversing half way around the world with his well travelled T-shirt collection perfectly sums up the event. The spirit of the underdog sits happily beside the fierce competition. Fair play to all as far as Sevens fans are concerned. Each are cheered and supported in equal measure and has their colours flown large in seven-minute increments. We all walk into the stadium eyes wide open, ready to be drawn into the vortex that it the Sevens maelstrom, to get swept up in the tide like there’s no tomorrow. But there always is: It’s called next year. We are all here to reunite with old friends and colleagues. To meet new ones. But ultimately, to have the brilliant play on the pitch inspire us in our everyday lives to Churchill’s immortal words: Never give in. Never give in. Never. Never. Never. Robby Nimmo