HK hopes to host sevens circuit finale
The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union will start lobbying today for the proposed World Sevens Grand Prix series to end with a big bang at the 2000 Hong Kong Sevens.
The new International Rugby Board-sponsored circuit is due to commence later this year.
In keeping with the stature of the Hong Kong Sevens, the HKRFU wants to host the climax - the last tournament in an eight- or nine-stop calendar.
'We would like to be the last,' said Dave Roberts, HKRFU commercial manager. 'The Hong Kong Sevens is presently the pre-eminent sevens competition in the world . . . naturally we would like to be the place which hosts the 'Grand Final'.' Senior HKRFU officials are expected to meet IRB chief executive Stephen Baines today in their bid to see that the calendar for the new event closes with the Hong Kong Sevens.
Baines flew in last night from Japan. He has arrived in Hong Kong primarily to attend the Asian Rugby Football Union council meeting tomorrow, where he will expand on the IRB's plans to promote the game in the region.
But he is also expected to brief the HKRFU on the progress of the World Sevens Grand Prix.
'The World Sevens circuit is of prime concern to us. We will be talking to the IRB about all the aspects of this new series in the next few days,' said Allan Payne, HKRFU executive director.
Another proposal the HKRFU will present to the IRB is to make the Hong Kong Sevens the 'Wimbledon' of the circuit by calling the ranking system the 'Hong Kong rankings'.
'The sevens game is where it is now because of Hong Kong. So we believe that some sort of recognition should be given to us,' said Patrick Gill, HKRFU director of marketing.
The IRB is expected to officially launch the new circuit at its annual meeting in Argentina next month when it will reveal the workings of the series and the venues.
Originally an initiative from the New Zealand Rugby Football Union's Fraser Neill, the establishment of a World Sevens Grand Prix is now a certainty following Neill's appointment as the IRB tournament director.
IRB vice-chairman Rob Fisher recently said the competition could involve anything between six and eight locations with a starting date late in 1999.
'We see this as an opportunity to develop young players in established unions who are not necessarily involved in their 15-a-side national squads. There is also considerable interest in countries where rugby does not yet have a high profile,' Fisher commented.
It is understood that apart from Hong Kong, other venues could include Fiji, Japan, Paris, Dubai, Punte del Este in Uruguay, and Sydney.
Peter McMullan, IRB manager of media and promotions, revealed that 23 unions had shown interest in hosting a Grand Prix leg.
The circuit could last between 12 and 14 weeks, most probably from October to March.