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Rugby Sevens: Hosts HK, Japan among top seeds in World Series Qualifier

The Hong Kong men’s team attended the draw for the 2014-15 HSBC Sevens World Series Qualifier, which will be held as part of next month’s Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.

The Hong Kong men’s team attended the draw for the 2014-15 HSBC Sevens World Series Qualifier, which will be held as part of next month’s Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.

February 11, 2014: Hosts Hong Kong were drawn with Italy, Tunisia and American Samoa in Pool F of the 2014-15 HSBC Sevens World Series Qualifier, which will be held as part of the sold-out Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens from March 28-30.

 

Japan – also bidding to become the first Asian team on the World Series – were drawn as top seeds in Pool H and will face Cook Islands, Uruguay, and Trinidad and Tobago at the 40,000-capacity Hong Kong Stadium. Russia and Zimbabwe, both expected to be among the top contenders, will face Chile and Barbados in Pool E.

 

The draw for the 12-team World Series Qualifier was held at Confucius Hall Secondary School in Causeway Bay, following the draw for the Cathay Pacific / HSBC Women’s Hong Kong Sevens.

 

The IRB will conduct the draw for the main Hong Kong Sevens competition (Pools A to D) – featuring the 15 current core teams and Sri Lanka – during the previous week’s Tokyo Sevens (March 22-23).

 

Both Japan and Hong Kong, first and second respectively in the 2013 HSBC Asian Sevens Series, are bidding to become the first Asian nation to earn core-team status on the World Series since it was inaugurated in 1999.

 

Hong Kong coach Gareth Baber, who participated in the Hong Kong Sevens as a Wales player from 2003 to 2006 then as Wales head coach in 2007 to 2008, was present at the draw with his men’s team, who will have strong support at the Hong Kong Stadium after coming close in previous attempts to qualify.

 

“I was fortunate enough to play in the Hong Kong Sevens and also to coach Wales here, so tonight is a nice reminder of exactly what comes with the territory of being a head coach at the Hong Kong Sevens,” said Baber, who was appointed last November to oversee both the Hong Kong men’s and women’s sevens training programmes at the Hong Kong Sports Institute.

 

“Hong Kong is the best sevens tournament in the world. I’m thoroughly looking forward to it and tonight I’ve seen what it means to the people of Hong Kong, but particularly I see what it means to the players and how motivated they are to ensure that they are playing at the top level.

 

“They know how important it is to them, so we’ll plan accordingly to that and hopefully we can get ourselves in the position, with the support of the fans in Hong Kong, to get on to the World Series.”

 

Hong Kong captain Jamie Hood added: “I’m really excited. One of our goals this year is to become a core team on the Sevens World Series. It’s really exciting for the boys to finally see the team we’re going to play in the group stage. It’s going to be hard work – it always is against international opposition – but obviously we’ll do our best.”

 

In 2012, Japan beat a six-man Hong Kong 10-5 after extra-time in the quarter-finals of the World Series Qualifier, when it was also held as part of the Hong Kong Sevens. However, Japan missed out on one of three core-series places on offer after losing to Spain in the semi-finals and Portugal in the decisive third-place playoff.

 

Last year, Hong Kong took part in the Qualifier when it was held as part of the season-ending London Sevens, but again missed out after losing to Spain, as the three lowest-placed core sides retained their status for the 2013/14 World Series.

 

Women’s Hong Kong Sevens

The Hong Kong women's team was also present to attend the draw for the Cathay Pacific / HSBC Women's Hong Kong Sevens, which will be held at Hong Kong Football Club on March 28.

The Hong Kong women’s team was also present at Confucius Hall Secondary School to attend the draw for the Cathay Pacific / HSBC Women’s Hong Kong Sevens, which will be held at Hong Kong Football Club on March 28.

The draw for the Women’s Hong Kong Sevens was also held on Tuesday evening. The 12-team, four-pool tournament will be held at Hong Kong Football Club on March 28, with the final held as part of the men’s competition at Hong Kong Stadium.

 

The tournament is not part of the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series, but features core teams Canada and Ireland, as well as Brazil, who have been invited to compete in all of the 2013/14 World Series events.

 

Defending champions Canada, who are favourites for the title, were drawn in Pool A with Kazakhstan and hosts Hong Kong, while Brazil, guaranteed a place at the 2016 Olympics, will take on South Africa and Papua New Guinea in Pool B.

 

France, China and Kenya face off on Pool C, while Ireland, Japan and Singapore will compete in Pool D.

 

The Hong Kong women’s team and new coach Anna Richards, the Black Ferns legend who took charge in November, were also present at the draw.

 

Captain Royce Chan Leong-sze made light of the tough draw, referencing the progress made since the women’s team qualified to become part of the professional programme at the Hong Kong Sports Institute, evidenced by victory in last month’s Hottest Sevens in the World competition in Darwin, Australia.

 

“Obviously we’re drawn with the defending champions Canada, but if we want to play in the final at the Hong Kong Stadium, we want to focus on our own team,” said Chan, captain of the team in Darwin, where the Hong Kong men also emerged victorious.

 

“We’ve made a lot of progress from last year since becoming a part of the Hong Kong Sports Institute and also more recently under coach Anna, who helped us become Cup champions in Darwin. So, who knows, when we play in our own tournament, we might see you in the final at Hong Kong Stadium.”

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