A jam-packed international calendar has raised the possibility of future Hong Kong Sevens tournaments being moved from the traditional March-April dates to sometime later in the year. The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union will look long and hard at the question of changing the dates of the annual Hong Kong Sevens soon after this year's event finishes. 'We recognise that there is a need to look at the dates of our future tournaments. If the tournament becomes devoid of household names, we will have to consider carefully whether a change is necessary,' said Peter Else, tournament director of the Hong Kong Sevens and HKRFU secretary. Change, if it comes, will happen in 1998. Next year, the Hong Kong Sevens will not be held. Instead, in its place, the second World Cup Sevens will be played at the Hong Kong Stadium on March 22-23. The advent of professionalism is the reason for the rethink. International players are bound by the fine print to contracts with their club and country - and tournaments like the Southern Hemisphere Super 12 and the Five Nations will rob the Hong Kong Sevens of top-calibre players. This year is a good example. South Africa and Australia are fielding sides missing their top players. Both countries have been hit by the Rupert Murdoch-backed provincial Super 12 with their contracted players' first allegiance being to provinces and the national unions. New Zealand sevens coach Gordon Tietjens must be thankful that the New Zealand Rugby Football Union gives more priority to sevens. They have allowed contracted players to be available this year for the Hong Kong Sevens. This is probably because of the World Cup Sevens next year. The Kiwis could follow the rigid examples of their Southern Hemisphere brethren in 1998. 1998 in the Northern Hemisphere could see the Five Nations become Six Nations, with Italy being the newcomers. The Five Nations is likely to start later that year too - from February to April. Couple that with the English domestic programme, which will run from August to May, and one gets the familiar drain of top-class players from the Hong Kong Sevens. March madness in the territory always revolves around the world-renowned Hong Kong Sevens. This could become a thing of the past if those voices which support a change to September-October have their way. One such voice is that of well-known BBC commentator Ian Robertson who advocates a change to later in the year. 'It will be a crowded international calendar come March-April, 1998. The Hong Kong Sevens will be grossly devalued by the Five Nations and the Super 12 in the future,' says Robertson. Robertson is confident that the Hong Kong Sevens will always be a crowd-puller, but he feels that if top players from the Northern Hemisphere are to continue to appear in Hong Kong, then a change would be advisable. 'A change will be better for players from the Northern Hemisphere as it would give them more opportunity to play here,' said Robertson, in town as part of the BBC Radio commentary team. Robertson admitted that a change to September-October would still clash with the restructured English League programme. 'But there is more chance of a player being released by his club than a top player being released by his country,' said Robertson. However, England this year will give little credence to Robertson's belief. The England team, although highly competitive, will miss a number of key players who were not released by clubs who are jockeying for positions in the richly-rewarding European Club competition. Only the good offices of team officials Les Cusworth and Andrew Harriman - who bargained with the clubs - saw England come out with a side which might lack in many big names, but remains competitive. 'Any proposal to move the dates of the tournament has to be weighed carefully. We looked at this option some years ago but decided not to change it because the Southern Hemisphere nations usually went on tour around September-October,' said Else. 'But now, with the present calendar robbing us off some of the big names in rugby, it would be a worthwhile exercise to have a fresh look at moving the dates from March to September,' added Else.