HK in line for double dose of Sevens
Hong Kong could host two international sevens tournaments in 2005 - the IRB Rugby World Cup Sevens as well as the annual Hong Kong Sevens. The local Union's board of directors have given the nod to the prospect of holding the Hong Kong Sevens that year.
'The jury is still out, but we are seriously looking at the option of having two tournaments. The International Rugby Board is also very receptive to the idea,' said Allan Payne, Hong Kong Rugby Football Union executive director.
'We would like to have two tournaments - ours in March as usual and the Rugby World Cup in September or October,' revealed Payne. 'If done right, I think there is room for both tournaments.'
Hong Kong also staged the World Cup Sevens in 1997. That year, the Hong Kong Sevens was shelved and the IRB event was instead played in March.
The IRB last month awarded Hong Kong the right to host the 4th Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2005. IRB tournament director Fraser Neill, who is on a brief stopover in town on the way to Australia, revealed yesterday that Hong Kong had beaten four other countries to win the right to host the World Cup for the second time.
'We had to decide between moving the tournament around or to go for the best tournament. In the end we decided to go with Hong Kong as they put the best bid forward. Hong Kong has always had a fantastic sevens tournament and we are confident that they will be able to host another successful World Cup,' Neill said.
He refused to divulge which countries had put forward bids but said there had been other bids from Asia. And contrary to local expectations, Neill said Hong Kong might have to qualify for the 2005 World Cup Sevens.
'We will go with a 24-team tournament again. But we will have to look at the aspect of the host nation qualifying automatically. I wouldn't make a 100 per cent commitment to Hong Kong being automatic qualifiers,' said Neill.
Payne, who met Neill in preliminary discussions about the 2005 IRB tournament yesterday, said the HKRFU hoped that the SAR could be 'included automatically'.
'The qualifying competition for the next World Cup Sevens will start in early 2004,' said Neill.
In another sevens-related development, Neill revealed that the IRB's annual World Sevens Series has had a name change and would now be known simply as the IRB Sevens.
'It is a fresh start. Our marketing guys thought there was a need for a rebranding exercise and a new logo,' added Neill. The first leg of this season's IRB Sevens will start with the Dubai Sevens which kicks off tomorrow. Hong Kong are not taking part in this tournament.