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Hong Kong Sevens 2009 Draw; Legendary Match-ups Promise Sevens Magic

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The Official Draw for the Cathay Pacific/Credit Suisse Hong Kong Sevens 2009 was held on Thursday evening, (February 19), at Hong Kong’s Exchange Square.

As the only 24-team event on the circuit in the most competitive season in IRB World Sevens Series history, the draw results - and the 30 series points that go to the Cup champions in Hong Kong - could be the crucial factor in determining who wins the Series.

This year’s IRB Sevens World Series is the most evenly contested in the history of the Series with the four tournaments played to date having been won by three different teams.

Last year’s Hong Kong Sevens cup finalists South Africa won in Dubai and George, four-time Hong Kong champions England won in Wellington and Argentina were the shock champions of last weekend’s USA Sevens. Other teams like Kenya and USA have also carved out some remarkable upsets beating New Zealand and Fiji respectively on the Series to date.

At present, England and South Africa are joint-top of the IRB World Sevens Series table on 60 points, eight clear of perennial champions New Zealand on 52. Argentina lie fourth with 48, ahead of Fiji on 32, Kenya on 24 and the USA, who took 12 points from their home event, on 20.

Considering the remarkable parity of the Series, the 30 points at stake for the Cup Champions in Hong Kong could be crucial for the second half of the 8-leg World Series. Adding to the intensity is the US$150,000 prize purse on offer at the Cathay Pacific/Credit Suisse Hong Kong Sevens, the most lucrative on the IRB Sevens circuit.

The capacity crowd of 40,000 expected in Hong Kong over the 3-day event from March 27 – 29, 2009, will be salivating at the prospect of watching England v Wales, New Zealand v Australia, Argentina v Portugal, Fiji v Samoa and Kenya versus the USA all in just the opening two days of match action. Add to this the cauldron-like atmosphere of 40,000 singing, cheering and outrageously costumed Sevens fans and the atmosphere promises to be amongst the best ever in Hong Kong.

The top 12 participating teams have been seeded based upon their current overall ranking in the IRB Sevens World Series 2008/09: where teams are currently tied on Series points they are ranked based on head to head encounters between those two teams in this season's Series. For example, South Africa and England are currently tied on 60 Series points, with South Africa being seeded ahead of England for the Hong Kong tournament by virtue of their two victories over England (19-12 in the Dubai Cup Final; 17-12 in the George Cup 1/4 final), compared with one win by England over South Africa (22-19 in the San Diego Cup Semi-final) on the Series to date.

The remaining participating teams have been seeded or placed in the draw based on performances in other IRB Sevens World Series events and IRB ratified tournaments, along with their final standings (where relevant) at the Hong Kong Sevens 2008. All seeds have been ratified by the IRB.

Tournament top seeds South Africa are the top seeded team in Pool A. South Africa will meet the tournament’s 12th seed overall, France, as well as Uruguay and Korea. After failing to overcome the final hurdle in Hong Kong at the 2008 Hong Kong Sevens, South Africa will be desperate for another shot at the ring.

Joint series leaders England are the tournament’s second overall seed in Pool B, where they will be matched up in a classic Home Unions tie against Wales. Resurgent after their tournament win in Wellington, England will also take on two of Asia’s finest, Japan and China.

In Pool C, defending Hong Kong Sevens champions New Zealand are matched against their trans-Tasman rivals Australia in a unique echo of the historic first ever Bledisloe Cup match played outside Australasia that was held in Hong Kong in November 2008. The two legendary rugby rivals are matched with Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka in Pool C play.

Pool D sees the old and new world meet head to head as the Series most recent champions Argentina face Portugal in the first and second seeds. Tonga and the hometown heroes Hong Kong complete Pool D.

Pool E features the mouth-watering prospect of two of the finest exponents of the abbreviated code, Fiji and Samoa, facing off in what is sure to be a fantastic demonstration of Sevens rugby. Canada and Chinese Taipei will face the daunting challenge of meeting the combination of flair and physicality that so typifies Pacific Island rugby at its finest in Pool D.

Traditionally one of the most evenly matched pools due to the seeding structure of the Hong Kong Sevens, Pool F features sixth seeded Kenya, fresh from their first ever victory over New Zealand in San Diego against another of the surprise packages of the season, USA the seventh tournament seed overall. Scotland and West Indies were also drawn into the final grouping in the third and fourth tiers respectively.

All of this and the fact that one of these teams will be World Champions by end March promises one of the most entertaining weekends in Hong Kong Sevens history.

The Cathay Pacific/Credit Suisse Hong Kong Sevens 2009 will be played from March 27 to March 29, 2009 at the 40,000-seat Hong Kong Stadium.

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