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Hong Kong Sevens

The 2019 Hong Kong Sevens Where the world comes to Play – and Party!

 

With the Rugby World Cup being held in Asia for the first time later this year, some might think that the game is a newcomer to the world’s most populous region. But the return of the world-famous Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens for a 44th year in 2019 belies that idea.

Not only is this year’s Sevens once again the largest tournament on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, also playing host to men’s and women’s series qualifier competitions that see 40 teams doing battle in Hong Kong this April – it is the world’s largest gathering of international rugby unions, with double the number of competing teams at the Rugby World Cup later this year (20).

Most importantly for the expected 120,000 fans packing the iconic Hong Kong Stadium and the 12 million more watching live worldwide, the Hong Kong Sevens remains one of the sporting world’s ultimate bucket list events, combining a  whirlwind of international rugby and revelry across three days and 70 games of pulsating action, punctuated by thumping live music, roving entertainment and more costumes than a Hollywood set.

The stars of the show are once again the 15 teams taking part in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, with Hong Kong’s typical rivalry between Fiji and New Zealand being busted up this season by the United States Eagles, who enter Hong Kong ranked first in the world and atop the Series for the first time on their 39th appearance here.

The USA team are a model of consistency, reaching the finals of all four opening legs, losing twice to New Zealand and twice to Fiji, before a breakthrough win at their home event in Las Vegas – successfully defending their title from last year’s Sevens on the strip.

The Eagles failed to reach the finale for the first time in Vancouver, the event preceding Hong Kong on the schedule, with South Africa surging to claim their first title in their first finals appearance of the year.

That win earned South Africa an automatic seed at the top of Pool A in Hong Kong where they will face off with a resurgent Samoa team under legendary coach Sir Gordon Tietjens, gritty Scotland, and Rugby World Cup hosts Japan.

The ever-unpredictable French also reached their first cup match of the year in Vancouver, finishing in second and shaking up the seedings for Hong Kong. Les Bleus will top Pool B in Hong Kong alongside Argentina, Canada and Portugal – the invitational 16th team in the series competition.

With Pools A and B throwing up some unpredictable draws, Pool C soon shaped up as the group of death in Hong Kong when Fiji – third-placed finishers in Vancouver – were seeded in the same group as New Zealand, Australia and a Kenya side known to cause upsets.

Unusually, Fiji and New Zealand – the historic Hong Kong rivals who account for 29 of the event’s 44 cups – will face off in the pool stages, while the draw results also see the All Blacks Sevens ranked second in the pool, despite being above third-placed Fiji in the Series standings.

With the sixth-placed Aussies and a Kenyan side capable of causing upsets rounding out the pool, where the two top teams will advance to the cup play-offs at the end of Saturday, this year’s competition could shake up the Series table ahead of the final tournaments in Paris and London. The sharp-eyed USA Eagles will be enjoying their far more comfortable roost atop Pool D, which they share with England, Wales and Spain.

Only one thing is always guaranteed from the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens: anything can happen – and likely will!

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