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Ireland celebrate winning the World Series qualifier in Hong Kong in April, 2019. Photo: K.Y. Cheng

Hong Kong Sevens organisers happy with 2020 dates and want three tournaments over three days – all at the main stadium

  • Hong Kong will stage a full women’s World Series event alongside the men’s competition for the first time
  • Organisers also want to host either the men’s or women’s World Series qualifying tournament during the April 3-5 weekend

The 2020 Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens will be held from April 3-5 with organisers hoping to cram three tournaments into a jam-packed three days of action.

The schedule for the 2019-20 World Sevens Series has yet to be released officially by World Rugby, but many of the 10 venues have already announced their dates.

The Hong Kong tournament is again scheduled for the first week in April with the local union hoping to add one qualifier event to the men’s and women’s World Series competitions – all at Hong Kong Stadium.

“We are still in discussion but we have got the men’s and women’s World Series and in terms of the number of teams in the stadium, we still have some capacity,” said Hong Kong Rugby Union chief executive Robbie McRobbie.

“We wouldn’t be able to take both [men’s and women’s] qualifier tournaments but we do have the potential to have one of them.

“The ideal scenario for us would be to have all three tournaments over Friday, Saturday and Sunday, predominantly in the [Hong Kong] stadium, with possibly a few of the qualifying matches outside.”

Brazil win the women’s qualifier in Hong Kong and will have core status next season. Photo: Edmond So

Hong Kong hosted the men’s and women’s World Series qualifiers in 2019, along with the main men’s World Series event, but the start of a new four-year cycle in 2020 may see a change of format.

Most of the women’s qualifiers were held at the nearby So Kon Po pitch with the final at Hong Kong Stadium.

World Rugby is keen to spread the qualifying process over a number of tournaments – possibly three – so teams would have more than one crack at achieving core status and joining the main series.

The new cycle will see six of the 10 legs hosting combined men’s and women’s tournaments, with Hong Kong set to stage an official women’s World Series event for the first time.

“World Rugby is committed to making the qualifiers more than one tournament and the likelihood means that the event in Hong Kong would be the finale of the qualifying series, hopefully,” said McRobbie.

“In such a case, we would anticipate fewer teams. There wouldn’t be 12 teams [like last time] which means we could fit everything into three days.”

The Hong Kong Sevens is again expected to be the seventh leg of a 10-venue series and takes place one week before the Singapore Sevens, which completes the Asian swing of the circuit.

Hong Kong fans cheer from the South Stand during the 2019 Sevens. Photo: Sam Tsang

McRobbie said union officials are happy with the 2020 dates, with the Ching Ming Festival falling on the Saturday.

“Obviously, it is always a bit of a jigsaw puzzle trying to schedule 10 events, in terms of having a minimum rest period between pairs of tournaments, and an increased emphasis on player welfare, quite rightly,” said McRobbie.

“Because of the gap between Vancouver and ourselves, I don’t think we will ever reappear at the end of March but our preference is the beginning of April and that is what we’ve got next year.

“In 2009, we were very lucky because Ching Ming fell on a Friday and we were well before Easter and it all panned out very well.

Thousands of fans in party mood in the South Stand. Photo: AP

“When the Hong Kong Sevens falls slap bang in the middle of English Schools Foundation holidays [like in 2018] it is not good for us because lots of families take advantage of the Easter break to go on overseas trips.

“So as far as possible we want to be clear of the middle of school holidays.”

According to the union, 114,448 people passed through the turnstiles over three days at this year’s Hong Kong Sevens – 37,418 on Friday, 38,657 on Saturday and 38,373 on Sunday.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: bumper prospect for the sevens