World Sevens Series recognises HK as premier event
The best thing about the new World Sevens Series is that the International Rugby Board has duly recognised the Hong Kong Sevens as the main attraction in the 10-leg circuit.
The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union might not have got what it wanted - the Hong Kong Sevens to be the grand finale - but it got the next best thing with the IRB giving additional ranking points for the SAR tournament. HKRFU chairman Peter Duncan says the IRB has awarded an extra 50 per cent of points for the side who win the Hong Kong Sevens.
'This is a way of recognising the Hong Kong Sevens as being the premier event,' a delighted Duncan said.
It will give the world's top sevens teams added incentive to win in Hong Kong. And it will mean that unions are likely to send their best sides to Hong Kong.
The IRB-backed World Sevens Series will kick off in Dubai on December 2-3. It will then swing through Stellenbosch, South Africa (December 10-11); Punte del Este, Uruguay (January 6-7); Mar del Plata, Argentina (January 12-13); Wellington (February 5-6); Australia, at a venue to be announced (February 12-13); Suva, Fiji (February 19-20); Hong Kong (March 24-26); Tokyo (April 1-2) and end in Paris (May 27-29).
Only the Hong Kong tournament will be run over three days and will feature 24 teams. The rest of the legs will be two-day, 16-team events.
In this way, the HKRFU gets to maintain the essence of the Hong Kong Sevens, which is to foster rugby in Asia while at the same time ensuring that the future of the tournament is also secure within the framework of a world circuit.
While the detailed workings of the series have still not been revealed by the IRB, it is known that there will be a core number of teams who will take part in all, or most, of the legs.
These teams are Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Fiji, France, Samoa, Japan, the United States, Argentina, Canada and the Home Unions.
However, there is a big question mark over the appearance of teams from the British Isles. The biggest surprise was that none of the Home Unions will stage a leg.
It is known that the English RFU and the rest had made bids to host a leg (there were 30 unions which sent in bids). But no one is saying how serious they were.
It is most probable that the English were only lukewarm to the whole idea of a sevens series. English officials have never been keen to take part in sevens rugby, as seen by their annual response to Hong Kong's invitation. They feel this game has no part in the bigger scheme of things.
Even the evidence thrown in their faces from the Southern Hemisphere giants as to how much sevens can improve a nation's overall game has been ignored. So while the rest of the world has got right into the spirit of the sevens circuit, the Home Unions have taken a wait-and-see attitude.
So while the HKRFU are happy overall about the series, it will also have to wait and see if England - the side it most yearns for - will make an appearance at the Silver Sevens in March.
Our advice - don't hold your breath.