HK to host World Cup Sevens
HONG Kong will stage the 1997 Rugby World Cup Sevens.
The International Rugby Football Board yesterday voted in favour of holding a second event and immediately awarded it to Hong Kong, who were the sole bidders.
Stuart Leckie, chairman of the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union, and who will chair the event's organising committee, was delighted with the decision.
''On behalf of the Hong Kong Union, I am absolutely delighted. It is a tremendous recognition of Hong Kong's efforts to promote rugby in the region.
''In our submission, we pointed out that it would be a good psychological boost to smaller Asian countries.'' The IRFB members met yesterday in Bristol, England, to discuss a variety of issues, including whether or not a second sevens event should be held following what was acclaimed as a financially successful inaugural tournament in Edinburgh, Scotland, this year. Also, that if another event was viable, whether Hong Kong should host it.
The territory, whose own 18-year sevens tournament was a catalyst for the world event, were hot favourites and had the support of the southern hemisphere nations.
A statement from the IRFB said: ''The 1993 tournament held in Edinburgh having been a success, the Council agreed that a second tournament be held over two days in Hong Kong in 1997.
''RWC (Rugby World Cup) Limited will be invited to negotiate terms with the HKRFU and develop a format and qualifying process.'' Leckie said Hong Kong's successful bid was the result of some hard work from all quarters, but he added that the real work had just begun.
A decision must be made on whether or not to hold the event in March 1997, to replace the Hong Kong Sevens, or prepare for an October tournament, four months after the territory reverts to Chinese rule.
''At the end of the day, it would be up to RWC, but we will be looking at the pros and cons of both a spring and autumn tournament.
''We will be talking about how to cater for the spectators. The Murrayfield tournament was a success in terms of rugby.
''But we pointed out quite candidly the weaknesses of that tournament. Hong Kong has great facilities for spectators and the fun and excitement generated by our own tournament was missing in Edinburgh.'' Leckie said the Hong Kong Sevens' main sponsors, Hongkong Bank and Cathay Pacific, were interested in being involved in the World Cup Sevens, but that they may first need the approval of the world body.
The continuation of the World Cup Sevens is a victory for Hong Kong, whose tournament was last month criticised by English Rugby Football Union secretary Dudley Wood, who accused competing countries of taking it too seriously.
Wood also said that England, who have always turned down an invitation to attend the Hong Kong Sevens, would vote against the staging of a second world tournament.
Come 1997, they will have no choice but to compete in Hong Kong as the defending world champions.
Leckie said he hoped to get in touch with IRFB officials soon, especially secretary Keith Rowlands, a stout Hong Kong Sevens supporter.
''Details of the event are subject to negotiations with the IRFB,'' said Leckie. ''We have already told them that in our opinion, a two-day tournament is preferred to the three-day event in Murrayfield, using the same format as the Hong Kong Sevens.
''The number of teams must be decided and how the qualifying tournaments would be staged.
''A committee will be formed containing people from Hong Kong plus the IRFB and RWC. I have been asked to chair that committee.''