Push for final leg of Sevens World Series to be held in Hong Kong
Fiji and former England coach Ben Ryan lends voice to fight for city's showpiece to be made climax and the event that decides both relegation and promotion
Former England coach Ben Ryan has lent his backing to Hong Kong again becoming the jewel in the sevens crown, with the HKRFU promising they will fight for their event to be made the climactic final leg in the World Series.
At a key meeting the day after next month's event, the International Rugby Board will consider restructuring the tournament and Ryan, now in charge of last year's Hong Kong winners Fiji, said: "I wouldn't mind the series ending in Hong Kong. This is one thing I would want changed in the World Series if I had my way."
The London Sevens in Twickenham is currently the last leg, but Hong Kong Rugby Football Union chairman Trevor Gregory says securing that place for Hong Kong will be high on the agenda when the World Series advisory group meets.
"It would make a lot of sense if Hong Kong is the last leg. Next month we will know who will win promotion as a core team for next season's World Series, but we won't know the team which will be relegated until May," said Gregory.
"It would be great if both promotion and relegation was decided at the same tournament."
If it were to happen, the World Series would start earlier and end in March or April.
Apart from the likes of Fiji and England trying to rein in World Series leaders New Zealand and South Africa in the core team event, next month's showpiece at Hong Kong Stadium will also serve as the qualifying tournament for 12 teams bidding to win one spot at the top table. The London Sevens in May will decide which team are relegated.
"We would be delighted if the Hong Kong Sevens was the last tournament when the new cycle is announced, from 2015. But there are many challenges to make that happen and it has to be for the greater good if changes come in," said Gregory.
"The Hong Kong Sevens, and perhaps Dubai, are the only events which can guarantee a 'neutral crowd'. No matter who is playing in the Cup final, they will play in front of full crowds.
"That is not the case with places like Twickenham or Wellington, where, if England or New Zealand are knocked out early, the crowd leaves.
"This is not meant as a criticism but it is a reality. In Hong Kong, we have the perfect atmosphere to give the Cup final a fitting end. But it is not up to me to say. It will be up to the World Series advisory group, of which we are a part, to decide who should go first or who should come last."
Ryan, who took over as Fiji coach before the start of this season, also called for the IRB to take into account player welfare in terms of travel.
"I know this is something the IRB are working hard on but it will be good to pair the tournaments geographically better so it's fairer in terms of travel for all the teams," Ryan told the South China Morning Post.
This season the series began in Australia in October and will end in May in London. With only nine legs, it has been difficult to pair tournaments off, creating issues. The Gold Coast sevens in Australia, for instance, was not paired with Wellington, which was held in February.
Gregory added: "Everything will be up for consideration - how many legs, where they will be held, which one will be paired with what."