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Draw for the 2010 Cathay Pacific / Credit Suisse Hong Kong Sevens

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This year’s IRB Sevens World Series is among the most evenly contested ever with the four tournaments played to date having been won by three different teams: New Zealand, Fiji and Samoa. Adding to the excitement, the Official Draw for the largest tournament on the Series, the Cathay Pacific / Credit Suisse Hong Kong Sevens, was held Thursday evening in Hong Kong. As the only 24-team event on the circuit, the results of the draw - and the 30 series points that go to the Cup champions in Hong Kong - could be the crucial factor in determining the Series champions in 2010.

New Zealand won the opening two events in Dubai and South Africa, while defending Hong Kong Sevens champions Fiji took home the honours in Wellington and Samoa picked up its fourth overall championship in the 11-year history of the Series last weekend in Las Vegas.

Currently, New Zealand top the table with 84 points followed by Samoa on 70 and Fiji with 68. Four-time Hong Kong Sevens champions England lie further back but within striking distance on 50 points – with the points rewarded for a fifth Hong Kong Sevens Cup enough to catapult them, sixth placed Australia (46 points) or seventh-placed Kenya (44 points) back into the race.

The expected 120,000 visitors to the Hong Kong Sevens will be in for more excitement than ever before as the latest evolution in the 35-year history of the tournament sees the introduction of a new Shield championship.

The change will see what was the Bowl competition now become the Shield competition, and what was the Plate competition becoming the Bowl. The winning Cup quarter-finalists will still proceed to the Cup semi-finals but the losers will now proceed to the Plate semi- finals rather than being ushered out of the tournament. In addition to still having a competition to play for, the losing Plate semi-finalists have a chance to improve their position on the Series table by playing for a possible 16 points as compared to the eight points on offer under the previous scoring system.

“The new structure creates three additional matches involving some of the top teams. As an example, last year’s losing Cup quarter- finalists were Argentina, Australia, England and New Zealand. We can also look forward to an additional final which is certain to ramp up the excitement of ‘Sevens Sunday’ in Hong Kong even further,” said Tournament Director Warrick Dent.

Changing the Series points and tournament structure in Hong Kong will also keep the Series competitive longer in the wake of Hong Kong, which awards more points than any other IRB World Sevens Series event as the only 24-team tournament on the circuit.

Added to the increased points on offer and the growing parity of the IRB World Sevens Series is the fact that Hong Kong offers the largest prize purse in international sevens (US$150,000), setting the stage for another frenetic weekend of fast action, furious tackling and the festival atmosphere that makes the Hong Kong Sevens a legendary event in world rugby and one of Asia’s top annual sporting events.

Draw for the 2010 Cathay Pacific / Credit Suisse Hong Kong Sevens

Series second seed Samoa is the top seeded team in Pool A. Samoa will face Argentina, Russia and Italy.

Series leader New Zealand is the tournament’s second overall seed in Pool B, where they will be matched up against Scotland, France and Chinese Taipei.

In Pool C, defending Hong Kong Sevens champions Fiji are matched against the USA, Portugal and Thailand.

Pool D sees Australia matched up with Canada who lie in 10th place overall on the Series table. Tonga and China complete Pool D.

Pool E features some of the world’s top rugby rivalries with an exciting Home Unions clash between England and Wales and a tantalizing rematch between Asian rivals Japan and Hong Kong, the gold and silver medallists respectively in the East Asian Games Sevens competition last December.

Traditionally one of the most evenly matched and exciting pools due to the seeding structure of the Hong Kong Sevens, Pool F features Kenya as the top seed in a reversal of fortunes alongside reigning IRB World Sevens Series champions South Africa. Zimbabwe and Korea join this ultra-competitive pool.

The Cathay Pacific / Credit Suisse Hong Kong Sevens will be played from 26 to 28 March 2010 at the 40,000-seat Hong Kong Stadium.

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