Hong Kong Sevens a dress rehearsal for Rio Olympics as organisers confirm 16-team line-up
Fiji, New Zealand, South Africa and England lead the way with Hong Kong taking part in World Series qualifier
Hong Kong will set the stage for an Olympic dress rehearsal when the top teams battle for glory at next month’s Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.
All teams who have so far qualified for the Rio Olympics, where sevens rugby is making its debut, will be in Hong Kong – along with other core teams who regularly compete on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series (SWS) circuit.
They will compete in the 16-team core event of the SWS while Hong Kong are in the 12-team qualifying competition, with the winners joining the elite teams at next year’s main series.
Defending champions Fiji will be joined by fellow Olympians New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Argentina, United States, France, Kenya and England for the April 8-10 event at Hong Kong Stadium.
Olympic hosts Brazil and Japan, who qualified for Rio from Asia, are in the SWS qualifying tournament.
England will play under the Great Britain flag in Rio. Completing the core line-up are Scotland, Wales, Canada, Samoa, Russia, Portugal and South Korea, who earned a special invite to play in the core event from World Rugby.
“With all 11 teams qualified to date for rugby sevens’ Olympic debut this August taking part in Hong Kong, fans from around the world will get their first taste of the excitement that sevens will offer the Olympic family in Rio,” said Robbie McRobbie, the Hong Kong Rugby Union’s general manager of rugby operations & commercial.
WATCH: The 2015 Hong Kong Sevens Cup final
“Our Hong Kong men’s sevens team will be counting on the traditional strong support from the full house at the Sevens as they bid for a spot on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and begin their preparations for the final Olympic qualification tournament in June.”
The draw for the tournament is scheduled for March 14.
Approaching the halfway stage of this year’s SWS, Fiji, South Africa and New Zealand are all level at the top of the standings on 69 points ahead of the fifth round starting on Friday in Las Vegas.
Fiji won in Dubai before South Africa took their home event in Cape Town. New Zealand, with Rugby World Cup star Sonny Bill Williams making his sevens debut, triumphed in Wellington before edging Australia in the final to also win the Sydney Sevens.
The 12th Olympic place will be finalised in a June qualifier, with Hong Kong also in the running.
For the fifth year, Hong Kong have been selected by World Rugby to host the international qualification tournament for the SWS.
The event, running concurrently with the SWS, features 12 teams, two from each of World Rugby’s six regions.
Russia were promoted to the SWS last year, replacing Japan.
The confirmed teams for the qualifier are Morocco and Zimbabwe (Africa), Hong Kong and Japan (Asia), Germany and Spain (Europe), Cayman Islands and Mexico (North America), Brazil and Chile (South America), and Papua New Guinea and Tonga (Oceania).
Cayman Islands, making their debut here, will be the 58th nation to have participated since the tournament’s inception in 1976.
Germany return to Hong Kong for the first time since 1992 and could get an emotional lift from the recent announcement of David Hasselhoff’s appearance at this year’s tournament. Hasselhoff is highly regarded in the country where his 1989 New Year concert at the Berlin Wall was attended by hundreds of thousands of Germans.
The Hong Kong Women’s Sevens will feature 10 teams.