Tournament gets go-ahead from the authorities
The Credit Suisse First Boston Hong Kong Sevens will go ahead despite the war and the pneumonia crisis, said the International Rugby Board (IRB) yesterday. The Hong Kong Sevens are the fifth leg of the IRB Sevens.
'The Hong Kong Sevens are still going ahead. We are monitoring both situations and as of today we have been told that it is safe to travel to Hong Kong,' said Michelle Treacy, IRB assistant communications manager.
She said the IRB had been in touch with all 23 visiting teams and advised them that it was safe to travel. The world governing body are also in daily contact with WHO who have advised them that there was no problem in going to Hong Kong despite the pneumonia outbreak.
Two years ago the IRB pulled out of the Dubai Sevens after the atttack on the World Trade Centre in New York. Although the Dubai event went ahead, it was not an official leg of the series.
'At the time a lot of teams were uncomfortable with travelling and didn't want to go. That is why the IRB pulled out of Dubai. But in this instance, countries are still seeking advice from us and none of them have indicated that they want to pull out,' she said.
New Zealand and South Africa, two of the teams who were worried about the situation in Hong Kong, yesterday announced their squads. New Zealand had earlier pushed back their arrival to Hong Kong by 48 hours due to the flu outbreak.
Kiwi sevens coach Gordon Tietjens has expressed his concern at leading his side to Hong Kong given the current international situation. 'It's a concern for us all of us, flying and the possibility of this virus going around and 40,000 people at the Hong Kong ground, Teitjens was quoted as telling the Manawatu Evening Standard.
Eric Rush will again lead New Zealand, who have been seeded number one at the 24-team tournament from March 28-30 at the Hong Kong Stadium. The only real surprise is the return from injury of Craig de Goldi, who has not played this year. The Kiwis will also bring back Karl Te Nana, the Player of the 2000 Tournament, who was missing last year due to Super 12 duty. Anthony Tuitivake, Tafai Iosas and Amasio Valence are some of the well-known faces in the squad.
The rest are mainly made up of exciting youngsters who coach Tietjens has moulded into a winning unit. New Zealand have won two of the four legs played so far and lead the IRB Sevens standings on 68 points with Fiji second on 56, England third on 46 and Australia on 44 points.
South Africa too have named a squad despite officials having expressed their concern over the outbreak. 'Based on the information we have got, SA Rugby will make a decision in due course regarding our participation in Hong Kong and Beijing,' said Songezo Nayo of SA Rugby Ltd.
Coach Chester Williams has included three new caps in Boland players Malan du Plessis and Alshaun Bock and Free State's Jaco van Schalkwyk. Williams also confirmed that Jaco Pretorius of the Lions would captain the side once again after regular skipper Paul Treu suffered a knee injury.
New Zealand: Charles Baxter, Craig de Goldi, Tafai Ioasa, Rory Kinikinilau, Liam Messam, Eric Rush (captain), Karl Te Nana, Jason Tiatia, Anthony Tuitivake, Amasio Valence, Nathaniel Walker, Justin Wilson.
South Africa: Jaco Pretorius (captain), Rudi Coetzee, Malan du Plessis, Alshaun Bock, Jaco van Scalkywk, Ian Fihlani, Jose van Rensburg, Marius Schoeman, Kevin Foote, Marc de Marigny, Darryl Coeries, Eugene Francis.