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Hong Kong Prepares for Rugby Week

Search ASIA Travel Tips .com Send to Friend ASIA Travel Latest Travel News Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Each March, the eyes of the rugby world are firmly fixed on Hong Kong for the world-famous Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, the world’s premier annual rugby festival.

The Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens takes centre stage on the international rugby calendar as the HSBC Sevens World Series comes to town, but the Hong Kong Sevens is more than just a tournament for spectators, it is a Mecca for rugby players from all over the world.

Over 4,000 players and 337 teams will take part in rugby tournaments and matches in Hong Kong during the week; a fifth of those will be from overseas who come to play before enjoying the big weekend inside the Hong Kong Stadium.

The Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens is a time for the entire rugby community and the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union and Hong Kong’s various clubs offer a myriad of opportunities for players to play, fans to watch and general enthusiasts to rekindle their love for the game.

The excitement of the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens starts well ahead of the tournament with a number of tournaments and social events bringing together the local and international rugby communities in a week jammed with rugby competitions and social engagements.

During what is known locally as “Rugby Week” the whole of Hong Kong embraces the game with thousands of people taking to the pitches of Hong Kong as players and spectators at the many rugby tournaments organized by the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union domestic league clubs.

Thousands of players will be amongst the 40,000 strong crowd packing out the Hong Kong Stadium fresh from taking part in some of the many associate competitions held in the build-up to the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.

These competitions run the gamut from fiercely competitive tournaments like the IRB Challenge Cup Hong Kong (women’s sevens) and the GFI HKFC 10s to festive social competitions like the Altus Kowloon Rugbyfest and the Beach Rugby 5s. Events for schools and youth teams also dot the calendar during the week.

There is even a schools tournament held for hearing-impaired youth in Hong Kong each March, the Standard Chartered Chun Tok Sevens, which features teams from the Chun Tok School and the Lutheran School for the Deaf taking part in a tournament which is not only played in, but organized by, the students from the two schools.

Even the kids get in on the act as children embrace the fun and unique opportunities of playing against other youth teams from around the world and the thrill of being part of the 224-team strong Mini and Youth Rugby Showcase at the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.

Rugby Week Events

Setting the festival mood, the action kicks off on the beach at Repulse Bay with the second annual Hong Kong Beach 5’s tournament. Eighteen men’s and women’s teams, including some from Russia this year, will take to the sand over two days to enjoy the unique 5-a-side format and fun party atmosphere.

Tens has always featured prominently in the run up to the Sevens and Hong Kong hosts some of the largest and most prominent ten-aside events in the world, including the long-running GFI HKFC Tens, highly regarded as the premier ten-aside tournament in the world. The GFI HKFC Tens will again be fiercely competitive, with a dozen strong sides from overseas, many featuring current professionals and ex-internationals, taking on some of the best local talent. On the social side, the Altus Kowloon RugbyFest features 20 club-based teams, including teams from Rwanda and Laos in 2012.

Youth rugby also plays a huge role in Sevens week, as many of the local juniors play in the stadium before the main event starts and enjoy the March Past on Sunday afternoon.

The HKRFU also hosts the annual Standard Chartered International Youth Rugby Tournament. This year, 44 teams are involved in the event, with over 100 players coming in from overseas.

For the first time ever in 2012, the French International School will also host an Under 11s International Festival, with 16 French schools from around the world coming to town to enjoy this event.

On the women’s rugby front, the Hong Kong Football Club will also play host to the group stages of the IRB Women's Sevens Challenge Cup Hong Kong, featuring 12 of the top international women’s sevens teams in world rugby. It is the 15th consecutive year of international women’s sevens play in Hong Kong and the International Rugby Board has recognized the strong position of women’s rugby sevens in Hong Kong by choosing Hong Kong as one of three international IRB Challenge Cup events in 2012. Exciting for players and fans alike, the Plate final, both Cup semis and the Cup final will be played during the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.

International Stars

It is not only the social players that flock to Hong Kong in the event week, there is also a major influx of current professional players and rugby legends in and around the pitches of Hong Kong during Rugby Week.

Around 30 former players and stars of world rugby will be in Hong Kong during the 2012 Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.

Among the stars taking part in this year’s tournaments as players or ambassadors are recent Rugby World Cup players Mils Muliaina and Seilala Mapusua and Scotland’s Graeme Morrison.

Other prominent names incoming for the event week include Justin Marshall, Tana Umaga, Frank Bunce (all ex-New Zealand internationals), Chester Williams (ex-South Africa), David Campese and Chris “Buddha” Handy (ex-Australia), Steve Thompson (ex-England), Andy Nicol (ex-Scotland) and Serge Betsen (ex-France).

HSBC, co-title sponsors of the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, have assembled a high-profile team of global rugby ambassadors to visit Hong Kong. The team includes rugby legends Jonathan Davies (ex-Wales), George Gregan (ex-Australia), Jason Robinson (ex-England) and John Kirwan (ex-New Zealand) who will act as brand and event ambassadors, helping to promote the sport during the week.

Most of these stars will be involved in local rugby club social activities and tournaments as well as community-focused initiatives, like running rugby clinics at local schools and clubs.

These are unique experiences for Hong Kong’s amateur players and juniors to meet and play against such renowned players and further serves to highlight the value of the sevens, its attraction to the global rugby community and the positive impact it has on the local community.

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