Hong Kong Sevens

Hong Kong Sevens: full women’s World Series event must wait until 2020 at the earliest, says union

Hong Kong will, however, again stage a women’s and men’s qualifier at next year’s tournament from April 5-7, 2019

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 July, 2018, 2:11pm
UPDATED : Monday, 09 July, 2018, 10:49pm

A full women’s event at the Hong Kong Sevens will have to wait until the start of the next four-year cycle of the HSBC World Series, as organisers look forward to a resumption of normal service in 2019.

Hong Kong Rugby Union chief executive Robbie McRobbie said the body was happy with the dates for the 2019 Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens – April 5-7, which were announced last week.

Like in 2018, the next Hong Kong Sevens falls on the first week of April but this time it will not be competing with Easter or the Commonwealth Games, which forced a few of the big teams to send weakened sides to the Hong Kong Stadium.

Union chairman Pieter Schats said in April that Hong Kong, which hosts the women’s World Series qualifier, would be keen to stage a standalone women’s tournament during Sevens week. However, McRobbie said it would not be next year.

“Next year is the end of the current cycle, so in 2020 there would be more of an opportunity [to host a women’s event] and to re-look at formats,” said McRobbie.

“Next year is in fact an oasis of consistency and calm,” he added, referring to the lack of distractions.

The 10-stop men’s series for next season starts with the Dubai Sevens from November 30 to December 1. It is followed by Cape Town (December 8-9), New Zealand (Hamilton, January 26-27), Sydney (February 2-3), Las Vegas (March 1-3), Vancouver (March 9-10), Hong Kong (April 5-7), Singapore (April 13-14), London (May 25-26) and Paris (June 1-2).

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“It’s exactly the same format as this year,” said McRobbie. “We are not clashing with Easter this time, which is good. Friday is Ching Ming [tomb sweeping] Festival, so it will be a public holiday.

“It’s a good thing for all the stakeholders, spectators, sponsors and teams to have some degree of consistency of dates. We are happy with the first weekend of April.”

Although Hong Kong is not part of the women’s circuit, fans can still expect to see some of the rising stars of women’s rugby with the city again hosting the world series qualifiers for men and women.

McRobbie said holding the knockout stages of the 2018 women’s qualifiers at the stadium proved popular with the fans, with China going on to win the tournament and qualify for the main series.

“We had the women’s games in the stadium on the Friday for the first time this year and that worked well,” said McRobbie. “It meant an earlier start to the whole programme and we had a full crowd on Friday.”

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He said it was too early to unveil entertainment plans for the 2019 tournament, with the 2018 event proving to be a resounding success despite teams such New Zealand and England fielding second-string sides as Fiji stormed to their fourth straight title.

“To be honest, we are really just kind of finishing the wash-up from this year so it won’t really be until August or September that we will be start to think about new ideas and initiatives for 2019.”

The Hong Kong Sevens remains the jewel in the crown for the World Sevens Series. It is the oldest tournament in the series and attracts the biggest crowds.

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This year’s entertainment menu featured British pop-reggae band UB40 and American rockers Smash Mouth, while the post-event party continued well into the night at the Sevens Village opposite the main stadium.

The Hong Kong event takes place one week before the Singapore Sevens, which has ambitions of its own to become the leading tournament on the circuit.