THE Hong Kong Rugby Football Union will offer next year's Hong Kong Sevens as a qualifying tournament for the second Rugby World Cup Sevens to be held in the territory in March, 1997. Union officials said this possibility came up when they met with Rugby World Cup (RWC) Ltd directors Marcel Martin and Leo Williams, who made a surprise and brief stopover in Hong Kong last week. 'It was a sudden trip and we were very glad they came. We had been waiting all last year for them to come to Hong Kong so that we could start planning the 1997 tournament,' said Stuart Leckie, HKRFU chairman. Apart from meeting Union officials, the RWC directors also met with Wembley officials, who manage the Hong Kong Stadium which will be the venue of the World Sevens. Although there is still two years to go before the event, Leckie said time was running out, especially in the context of planning the qualifying tournaments. Unlike the inaugural event at Murrayfield, Scotland, in 1993 where 20 teams were pre-selected, at least half the 24 teams for the Hong Kong tournament will be qualifiers. Presently, only world champions England, runners-up Australia and hosts Hong Kong are assured of a place in 1997. 'It is likely that eight or 12 teams will be seeded. This could mean a minimum of 12 teams having to qualify out of around 62 countries. 'Our tournament in 1996 can well become a qualifying event. We will have to carefully look at all the implications before making the offer. But it would be nice to do so,' said Leckie. One of the questions is how teams and sponsors of the Hong Kong Sevens will respond. With the 1997 Hong Kong Sevens being replaced by the World Cup Sevens, the traditional teams to play here - mostly from Asia - will not be invited. And if 1996 is a World Cup qualifying event, Hong Kong Sevens organisers will have to find out whether they have a say in which teams will play. It is known that the RWC are looking at sevens events like those in Dubai, Hong Kong, Fiji, Uruguay, Middlesex, Melrose and Sicily to host the qualifying tournaments. Last time, there was only one qualifying tournament - in Sicily - with Hong Kong, Taiwan, Namibia and Spain gaining entry to Murrayfield. The next meeting between the Union and the RWC hierarchy is scheduled for September.