Boost for Hong Kong rugby’s Olympics hopes as city to host Asian qualifiers for Rio
Men’s squad will have home advantage in competition to become one of the 12 teams to reach 2016 Games
Hong Kong will have home advantage in the race to qualify for the 2016 Olympics with the Asian qualifying tournament to decide the regional representative in Rio being held in the city in November next year.
"Asia will have one Olympic qualifying tournament for rugby sevens for the men and it will be hosted by Hong Kong," Trevor Gregory, president of the Asian Rugby Football Union, said on Wednesday. "The women's qualifiers will be held in Japan also around the same time."
Only 12 spots are available for both men and women at the Olympics. In the men's competition, six will be filled by the winners of regional qualifiers, including Asia.
Four spots will be taken by the top four in this season's IRB Sevens World Series, hosts Brazil receive an automatic berth with the last spot to be decided by a world repêchage.Originally the plan was to use the 2015 Asian Sevens Series to decide the one Asian qualifier.
But Japan's Brave Blossoms had requested one qualifying tournament as the Asian Sevens Series clashes with the Rugby World Cup (15s) in which they will be competing.
"They didn't want to be in a position not to be able to select their best team and as both the World Cup and the Olympics are important to them we decided it was a fair request," Gregory said.
Japan, who won the gold medal in the men's competition at the Asian Games, included a number of 15s stalwarts such as national captain Michael Leitch.
Gregory added: "Also it made sense as the eligibility rules for the Olympics and the Asian Sevens Series are different."
While the Olympics require players to have the passport of the country they represent, the Asian Sevens Series comes under the International Rugby Board's eligibility requirements of three years of residency.