All 24 teams announced for Hong Kong Sevens

(IRB.COM) Thursday 28 January 2010
 All 24 teams announced for Hong Kong Sevens
Hong Kong offers Asia's aspiring rugby nations the chance to compete against the world's best

The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union today announced the 24 international teams set to take part in the Cathay Pacific/Credit Suisse Hong Kong Sevens 2010.

This year's tournament again welcomes the 12 core teams that participate in all eight of the IRB Sevens World Series events - Argentina, Australia, England, defending Hong Kong champions Fiji, France, Kenya, New Zealand, Samoa, Scotland, reigning IRB Sevens World Series champions South Africa, USA and Wales.

Added to this established mix are 12 other aspiring teams, six from outside the Asian region and six from within.

Representing the rest of the world are Canada, Italy, Portugal, Russia, Tonga and Zimbabwe. Russia makes a first return after back-to-back Bowl wins in Hong Kong in 2007 and 2008, and following a strong start to the season in Dubai and George, while Italy returns for the first time since 2007.

Closer to home, the Hong Kong Sevens continues its traditional role as a hotbed of Asian rugby development. The six teams set to participate - China, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Korea, Thailand and the hosts Hong Kong - are the first to qualify through the new Asian Rugby Sevens Series, established in October 2009.

Thailand is returning to the Hong Kong Sevens for the first time since 2004.

The World's newest Olympic Sport

"With teams from every continent ready to compete, and six from Asia, the Hong Kong Sevens remains one of the best examples of the internationalism that has helped make Sevens rugby the world's newest Olympic sport", said Beth Coalter, IRB Sevens Manager.

The first two events on the 2009/10 IRB Sevens World Series have been won by a New Zealand side that looks intent on resuming its dominance of international Sevens after failing to win a tournament in the 2008/09 season.

Close behind the Kiwis are last year's Hong Kong champions Fiji, crowd favourites England and 2007 champions Samoa.

From 2010, there is also a change to the Hong Kong knock-out structure, bringing it in line with the other seven events on the Series with the introduction of a Shield competition, in addition to the traditional Cup, Plate and 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 leaving the tournament.

As a result, there will also be more World Series points up for grabs for those teams knocked out at the quarter final stages.

"The new structure creates three additional matches involving some of the top teams on the weekend, last year's losing Cup quarter-finalists for example were Argentina, Australia, England and New Zealand," said Warrick Dent, Head of Commercial, Communications & Events for the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union.

"We also can look forward to an additional final which is certain to ramp up the excitement of 'Sevens Sunday' in Hong Kong even further."

Video: Watch last year's Hong Kong highlights