PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 31 March, 2006, 12:00am


It became bigger and better in 1996 - the year it was decided that the Sevens would be played over three days.

Having started as a one-day event in 1976, and then progressed to two days and 16 teams in 1978, local officials decided to make the big jump in 1996 to make the preliminary rounds more competitive.

'The big teams will find it harder in the preliminary rounds. There will be far more testing games,' said Peter Else, Hong Kong Sevens tournament director in 1996, of the format change.

Not only was an extra day added, but the old format of eight pools of three teams was also changed to six pools of four - the present format.

The change was brought in that year as a test run for the second Rugby World Cup Sevens which Hong Kong was due to host in 1997.

It was felt the old format wouldn't work because there would be far too many easy games and the favourites would not really be tested in the preliminary rounds - a common complaint from fans in the early years at the Sevens as they watched the top sides in cruise mode on the Saturday and only move up a gear in the knockout stages. Such a charge can't be made now because every game matters.

The new format meant a dozen extra games on the Friday. And, for the first time, the tournament was played under lights. 'The Hong Kong Sevens has always evolved,' Jamie Scott, the tournament director in 1978 and 1979, said.

Watch this space for the next innovative change.