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Rugby Sevens: Japan, China head Asian charge for Women’s World Series spots

Japan (pictured left) will return to Hong Kong in September to compete in the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series qualifier in Shep Kip Mei, where the four semi-finalists will become core teams on the 2014/15 circuit. Photo: SportAsia.

Japan (pictured left) will return to Hong Kong in September to compete in the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series qualifier in Shep Kip Mei, where the four semi-finalists will become core teams on the 2014/15 circuit. Photo: SportAsia.

August 20, 2014: Asian contenders China, Japan and hosts Hong Kong have all been drawn in separate pools for the 12-team IRB Women’s Sevens World Series qualifier, which will be held in Shep Kip Mei from September 12-13.

 

China will play in Pool A against France, South Africa and Mexico, while Japan face Fiji, Argentina and Kenya in Pool B. Hong Kong will play in Pool C against 2016 Olympic Games hosts Brazil – who were invited to play in each of the events on the 2013/14 World Series – and European sides Netherlands and Portugal.

 

France, Fiji and Brazil are the top seeds in each pool and, along with the Netherlands, are the favourites for the four available places in the 2014/15 circuit.

 

The top two teams from each pool and the two best third-placed teams will progress to the quarter-finals, where the winners will progress to the semis and also join New Zealand, Australia, Russia, England, Spain, USA and Canada on the 2014/15 series. One more team will be invited to each of the rounds.

 

Japan and China are the second seeds in their pools and Asia’s strongest hopes to become a core team in the third season of the series. Hong Kong have a tough draw in Pool C but also the experience of coach Anna Richards, New Zealand’s most-capped player who won the last of her four straight Rugby World Cups as a 45-year-old in 2010.

 

With no Richards, New Zealand lost their grip on the World Cup in France this month, and the Black Ferns legend is now busy focusing on giving her charges the best possible chance to push for a place on the sevens circuit.

 

Hosts Hong Kong have been drawn with Brazil, Netherlands and Portugal in a tough Pool C. Photo: HKSPA/HKRFU.

Hosts Hong Kong have been drawn with Brazil, Netherlands and Portugal in a tough Pool C. Photo: HKSPA/HKRFU.

“This will be a massive challenge. It’s the second tier of international teams. The likes of Netherlands, Brazil, France, Japan and China have all been playing on the circuit for the past year. They all played well, too, so it won’t be easy for us,” said Richards, who joined as Hong Kong’s women’s coach in February.

 

Richards believes Japan and China, who both competed at the Hong Kong Women’s Sevens in March, stand a good chance of securing one of four spots on the circuit.

 

“Now that Sevens is an Olympic sport, everybody is putting a lot more effort and money into it. Japan is really improving and China is also putting a lot of resources into the women’s game here now. They’ll both be very strong in the tournament,” Richards said.

 

“Recently we’ve seen the Hong Kong women’s 15s team perform exceptionally well during the Asian Four Nations, again with a large compliment of sevens players on their roster. The funding and backing that sevens now has as an Olympic sport is definitely allowing more players to be up-skilled, which can only be good for our sport.”

 

Hong Kong will have home advantage have at the Shek Kip Mei Stadium, but Richards admits that crowd support won’t lessen the enormity of the task at hand.

 

“The reality is that if we hadn’t hosted it, we wouldn’t have been able to take part in the tournament, so it’s a massive opportunity for us to get the chance to play against some great teams,” Richards said. “If we can post some good results, we may be invited to play in an IRB tournament, so there are plenty of incentives for us to perform well. It’ll be a very tough tournament for us, but I still think we’re going to be competitive.”

 

Hong Kong’s Gabriel Lee Wing-yi will be among the match officials, along with Jessica Beard (New Zealand), Leah Berard (USA), Sara Cox (England), Alhambra Nievas (Spain) and Amy Perrett (Australia).

 

For the full Women’s Sevens World Series qualifier schedule, click here.

 

Source: IRB (www.irb.com) / HKRFU (www.hkrugby.com); Editing by SportAsia

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