England drag heels on Sevens
Ardent suitor the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union has still not been able to get England to say 'yes' to taking part at this year's Silver Sevens.
The English RFU, which has almost traditionally held a stand-offish view on taking part in the Hong Kong Sevens, has yet to announced whether it will send a team to the March 24-26 tournament.
'If I had a bet on whether England would be playing at the Hong Kong Sevens, I couldn't say at the moment if I would win it,' said HKRFU executive director Allan Payne yesterday.
'There will definitely be four teams from the Six Nations. We have also received 22 confirmations . . . only one berth is left open,' added Payne, leaving little room for doubt as to which country is still holding out on appearing at the 25th birthday of the Hong Kong Sevens.
The HKRFU said last year that every effort would be made to get England back to Hong Kong.
The red rose of England was seen at the Hong Kong Sevens in 1995 and 1996. They also played at the Rugby World Cup Sevens here in 1997.
The Hong Kong Sevens, the eighth stop in the inaugural 10-leg World Sevens Series, will once again feature 24 teams.
The HKRFU, which in the past has announced the list of countries taking part sometimes as early as in the previous November, has this year been tardy, with the delay mostly being attributable to the uncertainty surrounding the format of the new World Sevens Series, which began in December.
'We will announce our lineup next week and the draw will be done in late February,' said Payne.
The Malaysian Rugby Union yesterday confirmed that the March 17-19 Malaysian Sevens would serve as the Asian qualifying event for the 2001 Rugby World Cup Sevens. Ten teams will compete in Kuala Lumpur with the top two qualifying for the World Cup Sevens.
The 10 teams are Arabian Gulf, China, Hong Kong, Japan, India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and hosts Malaysia.
Hong Kong's chances of qualifying for the 2001 event have been boosted with Asian sevens powerhouses South Korea gaining automatic entry as they finished in the top eight at the last World Cup Sevens.