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Teams Confirmed for 2008 Hong Kong Rugby Sevens

Travel News Asia Latest Travel News Wednesday, 16 January  2008

One of, if not the most exciting Rugby Sevens event in the world, the Cathay Pacific/Credit Suisse Hong Kong Sevens has confirmed the participating teams for 2008. The line-up again features the entertaining mix of the world's top sevens proponents and rugby nations playing alongside international debutantes in the unique ties that have made the Hong Kong Sevens world-famous.

As the only 24-team tournament on the eight-event IRB Sevens World Series and with a US$150,000 prize purse up for grabs, the Cathay Pacific/Credit Suisse Hong Kong Sevens remains the one of the main tournaments in IRB Sevens that every team wants to win. Adding to the excitement this season is the fact that the opening tournaments in Dubai and George, South Africa, saw nearly one-third of the playing field making their IRB Sevens World Series debuts - promising the arrival of more new stars as the series progresses.

The 24 teams competing in Hong Kong in 2008 are:

Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, England, Fiji, France, Hong Kong, Japan, Kenya, Korea, New Zealand, Portugal, Russia, Samoa, Scotland, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tonga, Tunisia, USA, Wales and Zimbabwe.

The participating teams have been selected by the International Rugby Board based on results in previous international sevens events and regional competitions. The line-up also includes the 12 core teams participating in every event of the IRB Sevens World Series 2007/2008.

Commenting on this year's field, Allan Payne, Executive Director of the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union said, "The strongest teams on the Series so far have been New Zealand and Fiji, but Argentina are looking like a genuine threat once again. Kenya and the USA have also impressed so far on the Series as the surprise packages. With teams continuing to find their form ahead of Hong Kong, we can expect another fantastic weekend of rugby in front of a sold out stadium at the Hong Kong Sevens."

Echoing the excitement of the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union, Beth Coalter, IRB Tournament Operations Manager, commented on the progress of the series to date, saying "Just two events into this year's IRB World Sevens Series, there has already been a change in the top seeds with Argentina back as one of the top 4 teams. The USA are also exciting to watch and are intent on getting as many points as possible while Kenya's experience in the sevens game has also grown in strength. Now, New Zealand and other top teams are finding it difficult to give their new players a chance to run out as the competition from teams further down in the pools is so tough now that they cannot afford to replace their experienced players during a game."

"The Core Teams can also expect tough competition from Tonga, Russia and Portugal - who are now back to full strength after the Rugby World Cup 2007 and are well intent on ensuring they are top of the European Sevens teams," she added.

Currently, New Zealand tops the IRB Sevens World Series leader board after the first two circuit events in Dubai and South Africa in November and December 2007. Alongside perennial rivals Fiji, New Zealand are considered one of the top contenders to take out the Cup in Hong Kong, a goal they will be looking to achieve despite not having won in Hong Kong since 2001, an amazing statistic considering that New Zealand has been crowned the overall champion in every year of the IRB Sevens series since the inaugural 1999/2000 season, with the exception of 2005/2006, when Fiji became the only other nation to reach such lofty heights in world sevens.

To date, New Zealand has a perfect record on this year's series, beating Fiji in the cup finals in both Dubai and South Africa to tally 40 points and earn them top spot in world sevens, ahead of the flying Fijians on 32 points. South Africa lies in third place on the table with 24 points and will be hoping for its first ever cup win in Hong Kong this March, having only reached the cup final previously at the 1997 Rugby World Cup in Hong Kong.

Argentina lies fourth overall with 20 points, but it should be noted that Argentina's past sevens success paid major dividends in the team's legendary run to the Rugby World Cup Semi-final in 2007. Sixteen of the 30-man Pumas squad started their careers in the IRB Sevens, many of them having graced the Hong Kong stage in the past. 

Hong Kong crowd favourites England are tied fifth with Kenya on 12 points each. A victim of its own success, (the side won four consecutive Hong Kong titles in the early years of the decade), England Sevens stars are continuously drafted into English Premier league sides and the England national XVs team, including such marquee names as Matthew Tait, Henry Paul, David Strettle, Ugo Monye, Richard Haughton. Inspirational captain Simon Amor, a lynchpin of the team's historic Hong Kong performances, announced his decision to step aside from the sevens code and will not participate in the next two series events in Wellington and San Diego. Known for his fondness for the Hong Kong Sevens, it is yet to be determined whether Simon will re-join the side in March for one last tilt at the title.

Last year's popular Hong Kong Sevens cup winners Samoa currently lay in seventh place with 10 points ahead of Scotland and a surprising United States team in eighth and ninth place respectively. Under coach Al Caravelli, the United States has increased its commitment on the IRB Sevens World Series and will contest six events this year, including making their debut appearance at the Adelaide Sevens. Already this season, the Eagles have reached a Cup quarter final in George and scored more points than they did in the whole of the  2006/07 Series.

Wales has also signed on as the IRB Sevens World Series' 12th core team this season and will participate in all of the tournaments, including Hong Kong. Wales has also appointed a new coach, experienced sevens veteran Gareth Baber, who is no stranger to Hong Kong Sevens fans as a player.

On the back of reaching the Shield final in both Dubai and George, Zimbabwe will make its first appearance in Hong Kong since 1998.

The Official Tournament Draw for the Cathay Pacific/Credit Suisse Hong Kong Sevens will be held on Thursday, 14 February, 2008.

See other recent news regarding: Travel News Asia, Rugby Sevens, Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, Pictures of the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens

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