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Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens Set for Kick Off!

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Notice: Our coverage of the 2012 Hong Kong Sevens is sponsored by the Regal Kowloon Hotel.

With a new format for the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2012, this year’s event is shaping up to be the most competitive tournament held in the 37-year history of the world-famous Hong Kong Sevens.

Hong Kong retains its unique status as the largest event on the HSBC Sevens World Series with 24 teams as opposed to 16 at other circuit events, but the tournament has a unique new role in 2012 as this year’s Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens will double as a qualification event to identify three new teams to participate in an expanded 15 core team HSBC Sevens World Series (HSBC SWS) next season.

As a result, Hong Kong will play host to two competitions played within the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens. A 12-team core team competition will contest the Hong Kong Sevens Cup, Plate and Bowl with points being awarded to the HSBC SWS standings.

The 12 HSBC SWS core teams are Argentina, Australia, England, Fiji, France, Kenya, New Zealand, Samoa, Scotland, South Africa, USA and Wales.

A separate HSBC Sevens World Series qualification tournament will be held for the remaining 12 teams. The top three finishers overall in this competition will gain automatic entry to the HSBC SWS 2012/2013. The Qualifier teams are Canada, China, Guyana, Hong Kong, Japan, Philippines, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Tonga, Uruguay and Zimbabwe.

Trevor Gregory, Chairman of the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union, said, “Spectators at the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens are in store for quite simply the most competitive Hong Kong Sevens ever played in our 37-year history. It is fitting that the most competitive Hong Kong Sevens ever is part of what is shaping up to be the most competitive HSBC Sevens World Series to date.”

Four different teams have won the five Series events played to date with New Zealand returning as defending Hong Kong Sevens champions and HSBC SWS leaders, closely followed by Fiji, South Africa, England and Samoa, with only South Africa yet to capture a Cup this season.

New Zealand won in South Africa and at their home tournament in Wellington as well as reaching the final in two other events. Fiji won the series opener in Australia, while England won in Dubai and Samoa are the most recent champions in Las Vegas.

The results see ten-time Hong Kong Sevens champions New Zealand at the top of the series with 92 points. Fiji, (who hold the record with 12 wins in Hong Kong including both Rugby World Cup Sevens) are close behind on 87 points. South Africa (76), England (74) and Samoa (69) are tightly bunched behind the top 2, whilst Australia and France lie joint 6th on 52 points.

The Series’ top try scorer, New Zealand’s Frank Halai, is unfortunately absent though injury, giving England’s Dan Norton and fellow kiwi Tomasi Cama a chance to catch up. Cama also leads the Series on total points scoring with 215 points ahead of Scot Colin Gregor who has 154 points to his credit.

The continued parity on the series makes a win in Hong Kong even more important for the teams and a pivotal factor in deciding the HSBC SWS 2011/2012 champions. The US$100,000 prize purse for the Hong Kong Sevens Cup champions will only add to the intensity of the matches this weekend at the Hong Kong Stadium.

Philippines and Guyana will make their debut in this year’s Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, becoming the 50th and 51st national teams to take part in the tournament since its inception in 1976.

“With teams from every populated continent playing in 2012, the Hong Kong Sevens continues to raise the level and profile of our game across the globe, and in doing so making the Hong Kong tournament a particularly special international event,” Mr. Gregory added.

Over 120,000 spectators are expected across the three-day tournament. 

Ben Ryan, Coach of England, said, “We have to play as well as we can really. We have a difficult pool, three very good opponents and can't look beyond Argentina on Friday night. The tournament is a lot harder, no easy games. But it is still Hong Kong, still a special place, still six games over 3 days. It is all systems go and normal service ...  It's got more competitive than it was last year. The top teams are still there but the teams below are playing better and you have to work much harder and not slip up to get through to Cup quarter finals and to win the Plate Finals just to get the points you need to stay in touch and we are just about hanging in by the skin of our teeth right now.”

Organised by the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union and co-sponsored by Cathay Pacific Airways and HSBC, the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens will be held from Friday, 23 March to Sunday, 25 March 2012, at the Hong Kong Stadium.

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