March dates may change if Hong Kong secures last leg
HKRFU says mid-April date is likely if city wins right to host season-ending World Series tournament
The Hong Kong Sevens will have to be pushed back a fortnight to mid-April in 2016 if the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union's ambition to become the climactic final leg of the IRB Sevens World Series is to be realised.
"We might have to play our tournament a few weeks later, in mid-April, if our bid to become the final leg in the World Series is to materialise," said Trevor Gregory, HKRFU chairman.
"Our preferred dates are between mid-March and mid-April and we have informed the IRB.
"We have to be flexible, otherwise there is no chance we can be the final leg if we stick to the event in March. Mid-April is the furthest we can push it back, otherwise it will be too hot to play."
That could all change once the new Kai Tak Stadium, with its retractable roof and temperature regulated environment, comes on board in 2019 or 2020.
The HKRFU made known its wish to be the final leg at yesterday's meeting between the International Rugby Board and all its existing stakeholders in the World Series at Hong Kong Football Club.
The existing World Series cycle will end next season and the IRB is re-evaluating the format. A record 25 countries have expressed interest in hosting a leg of the World Series when the new cycle begins around mid-2015. Hong Kong want to be the "jewel in the crown" and host the final leg in April 2016.
"There was positive progress made at the meeting. All unions were told they had to submit their tender documents by May. There will be plenty of changes and everything will be done with player welfare in mind," Gregory (pictured) said.
The HKRFU's wish to become the final leg is based on the fact that the Hong Kong Sevens - the largest tournament in the World Series - can easily decide both the promotion and relegation spots at the same event
"We showed once again how successful we can be. The weekend's tournament was another outstanding success, and this is the universal view," Gregory said.
For any shift in the calendar to take place, the English union will have to see the benefits of hosting the start of the World Series - in September - rather than being the final leg as it is at Twickenham in May.
"The RFU has invested a lot of resources into their tournament, which is now the climax of the World Series in May. But it understands if it is to the overall benefit of the World Series, it might have to move to September.
"All these discussions took place in a spirit of co-operation. No one is trying to force others to jump off a cliff. We will all put forward our tenders and our preferred dates and it will then be up to the IRB to decide," Gregory said.
IRB official Mark Egan said the final decision on the number of tournaments and dates would be decided by the world governing body's executive committee in October.
Gregory added: "With so much interest, maybe some of the current stops might not be on the calendar at all. We wish to be the last leg but, if it doesn't happen, we will just carry on as we have been."