Island trio to make Hong Kong Sevens debut
American Samoa make their bow as Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago add ‘mardi gras’ flavour to 2014 tournament
Three teams will make their debut at the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens in March.
The trio – American Samoa, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago – will play in the qualifier for the HSBC Sevens World Series and bring to 56 the total number of nations or territories who have played at the Hong Kong Sevens since 1976.
The tournament will see the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union’s prized asset retain its status as the largest tournament on the world series circuit with 28 teams participating after it was confirmed Hong Kong would again host the 12-team qualifier.
“It is fantastic that we have these three new teams and particularly exciting that they will bring a mardi gras feel to help make the 2014 Hong Kong Sevens very special,” said tournament manager Robbie McRobbie.
“Also, because the winner of the qualification event will get an automatic spot in the core series it certainly ups the ante for all teams including our own Hong Kong boys.”
The three debutants will be joined by the Cook Islands, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Russia, Tunisia, Zimbabwe and two teams from South America, who will be determined at their regional qualifier tournament in late January.
Argentina, Australia, Canada, England, defending champions Fiji, France, Kenya, New Zealand, Portugal, Samoa, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, the United States and Wales are the 15 core teams in this year’s world series.
The 16th team to round out the core competition has yet to be announced by the International Rugby Board.
The winners of the 12-team qualifier will advance directly to next year’s world series, replacing the bottom-ranked core team.
After three events in the world series (Gold Coast in Australia, Dubai and Port Elizabeth in South Africa), New Zealand lead with 58 points, two ahead of South Africa and 10 in front of Fiji.
South Africa won the last event, beating the Kiwis 17-14 in an emotionally charged South Africa Sevens played in the wake of Nelson Mandela’s death.
Hosting the two tournaments within the March 28-30 event – and 70 matches in total – has forced Hong Kong organisers to schedule two rounds of the qualification pool matches on Friday, alongside the opening pool matches of the core competition.