Hong Kong’s rugby sevens squads are heading to the United Kingdom and Portugal for competitions and training in May and June, ahead of a pivotal international season. In a statement, the Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) said the ongoing restrictions on sport in Hong Kong as part of the city’s strict measures to combat the coronavirus made the trip necessary, ahead of a year that includes the Asian Games and Rugby Sevens World Cup in September. The decision to leave the city was being supported by the Hong Kong Sports Institute, where the sport holds elite status. The men’s team won the city’s first team gold ever at an Asian Games four years ago in Jakarta. Hong Kong’s women’s squad finished in fifth place in Jakarta, and have sights set on improving that standing at a home this autumn. “As restrictions tighten in Hong Kong, many of the HKSI’s High Performance Sport Programmes are taking their athletes and coaches overseas to ensure that they can maintain competitive advantage for their respective international competitions,” James Farndon, the HKRU’s general manager of performance rugby, said. “Given the importance of our upcoming international tournaments we believe that it is essential for the teams to have optimal preparation including matches against premier international competition. The HKSI’s approach to financially support overseas training camps like this is highly appreciated by the HKRU.” Also looming large on the horizon is the World Rugby Challenger competition for spots on the World Rugby HSBC Sevens Series in South America in August, while Hong Kong’s men’s team also need to prepare for the World Cup in South Africa in mid-September. Hong Kong have qualified for every tournament since the inception of the world championship in 1993. Immediately after the Asian Games, the men’s and women’s sevens squads will need to begin preparing for the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens in early November, the first international sevens competition to be held in the city in nearly four years. Training in Britain also offers the opportunity to enter both teams into two events on the upcoming UK Super Sevens Series, which takes place in May and June, and into long-running international sevens warm-up tournaments in Lisbon and the Algarve in Portugal. These will mark the first international competitions for the teams since November 2021. The squads are expected to leave Hong Kong on May 6 and will be based at Loughborough University for the duration of their trip.