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Fri, 22 Feb 2019

40 Teams to Take Part in Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2019 in April

Forty teams from 34 international rugby unions will fly to Hong Kong for the Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, the world’s largest rugby tournament, on 5-7 April 2019.

The 40 teams in one place mark the biggest gathering of rugby unions anywhere in the world in 2019.

Sixteen men’s sides will contest the Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, the seventh of ten legs on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, while 12 men’s and women’s teams take part in global qualifiers for a shot at promotion to their respective Series.

Can Fiji win five Hong Kong Sevens tournaments in a row?! Action from last year's Fiji vs Kenya Final at the Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens. Picture by Steven Howard of TravelNewsAsia.com Click to enlarge.

 Over 120,000 fans are expected to throng the stadium to enjoy the sights and sounds of the sevens across three days of world-class rugby revelry and entertainment. It all adds up to one of the sporting world’s ultimate bucket list events, bringing life to the event’s sobriquet: ‘Hong Kong Sevens, where the world comes to play.’

The fun is not confined to the stadium either, with the Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) redoubling its efforts to share the spirit of the sevens with all of Hong Kong. The sevens will spill into the streets once again with the HKRU staging two outdoor fanzones.

In recent years, these out-of-stadium initiatives featuring rugby demonstrations, games, food, music, and rugby action on big screens, have attracted more cumulative visitors than the 120,000 spectators inside the stadium over the weekend.

As ever, all this amusement is in aid of a good cause. Apart from being the lifeblood of local rugby, this year’s event marks the continuing engagement between the HKRU and global sports development charity, Laureus, the first official charity of the Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens. Proceeds raised from this year’s campaign will support the numerous international sporting charities funded by Laureus, including several programmes jointly identified by Laureus and the Hong Kong Rugby Union Community Foundation.

With the top four finishers on this year’s series automatically qualifying for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, the action on pitch in the series has been compelling to date with the series stars set to scorch the stadium track once again in 2019.

The USA is making waves, having reached the cup final in every event this season, good for tied first with New Zealand, who beat them in the finals in Dubai and Sydney. Both the Eagles and the All Blacks are level on 76 points.

The peloton is hot on their heels, including Fiji, who will be chasing a first ever five-peat at their home-away-from-home event in Happy Valley. Fiji are in third on 72 points after beating the USA in Cape Town and Hamilton. Fan favourites England and South Africa round out the top five, with South Africa in fourth (57 points), followed by England just two points back. Australia, Scotland, Spain, Argentina, Samoa, Canada, France, Kenya, Wales and Japan complete the World Series table ahead of the Las Vegas and Vancouver tournaments in March.

Ireland, whose appearance in 2018 – when they reached the semi-finals – was their first at the Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens in over a decade, will be back again in 2019. Picture of this young Irish fan at the stadium by Steven Howard of TravelNewsAsia.com Click to enlarge.

The 16th participating team, invited by World Rugby, is Portugal.

The world’s emerging rugby nations battle it out in the qualifiers, with promotion to the World Series on tap for the winners. The uber-competitive men’s qualifier sees 10 of last year’s 12 teams returning to hunt for the top spot, claimed by Japan in 2018, including all three cup semi-finalists.

 Germany, who reached the final last year, and Russia – relegated from the series – return, along with Ireland, whose appearance in 2018 – when they reached the semi-finals – was their first here in over a decade. Uganda and Zimbabwe return from Africa, with Jamaica (North) and Uruguay and Chile (South) representing the Americas for a second straight year. The Cook Islands join the party from Oceania, along with Tonga, in 2019. Hong Kong will fly the region’s flag alongside Philippines, on their debut in the qualifier, after making their first appearance in 2012 as the 16th team in the series competition.

The Women’s Qualifier continues to go from strength to strength with the lure of playing beneath the lights at the iconic Hong Kong Stadium coaxing even higher levels of performance out of the world’s top non-series sides. Hong Kong will host 11 international sides in the tournament that draws teams from each World Rugby region. Nine of last year’s competitors are returning, promising even more thrills than 2018’s dramatic competition where China emerged victorious. With China on the Women’s Series this year, the field is wide open.

Uganda are on debut, bringing the total number of nations that have played here to 42 in the 22 years of the Hong Kong Women’s Rugby Sevens cum women’s series qualifier. Kenya, who were pipped by South Africa in last year’s semis, will also represent Africa. 2018 semi finalists Belgium, Poland and Scotland, returning to women’s sevens competition here for the first time since the Hong Kong event debut in 1997, represent Europe while Mexico, Brazil and Argentina line up for the Americas and Papua New Guinea is Oceania’s entry. Series veterans Japan will be plotting their return to the world stage, but face a strong threat from Kazakhstan and Hong Kong in their bid to claim regional bragging rights.

The draw for all three competitions will be held on 11 March 2019 at Hysan Place in Hong Kong.

Rugby pictures: Pictures from 2018 Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, Pictures from 2017 Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, Pictures from 2016 Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, Pictures of Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2015, Pictures of the Asia Rugby Sevens Olympic Games Qualifier in Hong Kong, Pictures of Singha Thailand Sevens 2015, Pictures from the 2013 British & Irish Lions Tour in Hong Kong, Pictures of Hong Kong Sevens 2014, Pictures of Hong Kong Sevens 2013, Pictures of Chartis Cup 2012 and Pictures of Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2012.

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