HONG KONG’S RACE TO RIO 2016 COMES DOWN TO THE WIRE

Hong Kong to host Asia’s best rugby in next month’s qualification tournament for Rio Olympics

28 Oct 2015

In just two weeks' time (7-8 November), Hong Kong will host the best in rugby sevens action when 16 national teams go head-to-head for two golden chances to get to the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.

The Olympic Qualifier at the Hong Kong Stadium features 10 men’s and 6 women’s teams in a two-day tournament. At stake is the sport’s biggest prize – a place at the Rio Olympics next year.

When the world’s best players run out onto the Deodoro Stadium in Rio de Janeiro next August, they will be pioneering Rugby Sevens at the Games.

But it’s not the first time the sport has featured at the Olympics. The 15-a-side game was a men’s sport at four previous games, in 1900, 1908, 1920 and 1924.

Rugby returns AT Rio – QUALIFICATION PROCESS

There are 12 teams in both the men’s and women’s events at Rio. Each nation can send a squad of 12 players, meaning 288 of the world’s best players will compete for gold, silver and bronze.

The line-up of nations who qualify has yet to be finalised but the field is taking shape. In both the men’s and women’s events, the host nation, Brazil, are through automatically.

Then there are three routes to the remaining 11 spots in each tournament.

Top Four: HSBC Sevens World Series

Qualification for the Games began during the HSBC Sevens World Series 2014‑15, with the top four teams in both the Men’s and the Women’s tournaments guaranteed a berth in Rio.

For the men, the four highest-ranking nations at the end of the nine rounds of the HSBC Sevens World Series, and therefore qualifying for the Games, were Fiji, South Africa, New Zealand and Great Britain. There was no geographical restriction on where the member unions were based.

In the women’s tournament, the top teams after the six rounds of the 2014-15 Series were New Zealand, Canada, Australia and Great Britain, securing four of the total 12 places.

MIDDLE SIX: World Rugby Regional Championships

Since the final event of the World Series in May this year, the six regional bodies that make up World Rugby have each held their own Sevens Championships. These are winner-take-all events, with one place available to each of the regional groups, including Hong Kong’s group in Asia.

South America

In South America, the CONSUR Men's Sevens Championships saw Argentina go through to Rio. The round-robin event held in Argentina, saw Los Pumas 7s win each of their six games.

Colombia went through the tournament unbeaten in the Women's Sevens Championships. The highlight was the final game, a tense 12-7 win against Argentina.

North America

In North America, the Men's Sevens Championships were held in Cary, North Carolina. Both Canada and the United States were unbeaten after the pool rounds, with the US overcoming their northern rivals 21-5 in the final.

The Women's Sevens Championships were held concurrently and were also won by the US.

Europe

The Olympic qualifiers for European nations took place in the form of a satellite Rugby Sevens series, the Sevens Grand Prix. The three legs of the tour took place in Moscow, Lyon and Exeter, England.

In the Men’s event, a near–full strength French team won each of the three legs to go through to Rio.

The French repeated the dose in the Europe Women's Sevens Championships, held over two rounds in Kazan, Russia, and Brive, France.

Africa

The Rugby Africa Men's Sevens Championships will see the most exciting teams in Africa compete in a tournament in November.

Teams familiar to Hong Kong audiences include Kenya, Namibia, Tunisia and Zimbabwe.

South Africa has already gone through in the Women’s qualification.

Oceania

The Oceania Sevens Championship in Auckland in November will pit rugby powerhouses Australia, Samoa and Tonga against the likes of the Cook Islands and Nauru.

The Oceania Women's Sevens Championship is one of the most open, with Fiji, Samoa and Tonga the most likely to fill the top placings.

LUCKY LAST: Rugby SEVENS Final Olympic Qualification Tournament

The 11th and final place in each event is set to be determined by a global repechage tournament involving the minor place holders from each of the six regional competitions, playing off against each other.

This tournament is scheduled for the end of June 2016, and Asia is guaranteed three places in this competition although the top contenders will be hoping to book their tickets after November’s Asia Rugby Sevens Qualifier.

THE ASIAN EQUATION

Hong Kong’s shot at Rio qualification takes place on 7-8 November at the Asia Rugby Sevens Qualifiers. In both the men’s and women’s tournaments, Japan looms large after taking out the Asian Rugby Sevens Series in September.

In the men’s event, Hong Kong will face a stern test against regional rivals Japan, the big-bodied Sri Lankan team and South Korea, who finished a credible third in the Asian Rugby Sevens this year.

Hong Kong’s women’s team will face Japan, a powerful China combination and a physical challenge from Kazakhstan as potential stumbling blocks in their tournament.

HOME-TOWN HEROES

Hong Kong finished second in the men’s and third in the women’s Asian Rugby Sevens Series just last month. Could they make it to Rio in November?

A home ground advantage and passionate Hong Kong support will certainly help, says Hong Kong coach Gareth Baber. “Playing your sport at an Olympics has to be the ultimate for any athlete. The drive and passion of the players is astounding, and I know they are gearing up to give their all for a shot at Rio,” said Baber.

Baber says try-scoring threat Tom McQueen and forwards Mark Wright, Tsang Hing Hung and Kwok Ka Chun are all preparing for a return to the biggest stage, and will come in handy against the Japanese – clearly the main threat.

The women’s side has shown solid form all year and recorded its highest finish in the Asian Rugby Sevens Series to date. To qualify for the Games, they have a two-leg series in Hong Kong, followed by a tournament in Japan.

“Aggie Poon Pak-yan has been deadly with the boot throughout the Asian Sevens and the whole squad is well placed, fitness-wise, for the qualifiers,” says Hong Kong women’s sevens coach Anna Richards.

With both Hong Kong teams showing form at the right end of the season, anything could happen on the world stage. Hong Kong has a chance to create history and supporters can be there to watch it live.

THE TOURNAMENT

With a reputation for throwing arguably the biggest and best rugby party in the world for the last 40 years in the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, the Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) has ensured that the world-class sporting action on offer over the weekend will be complemented by an enticing array of off-field entertainment and sustenance to encourage spectators to come out and support Team Hong Kong.

Rockin’ Rugby

Following the success of musical acts like the Beach Boys, Queen Extravaganza and the Village People at the Hong Kong Sevens, the HKRU is putting on a musical showcase throughout the weekend featuring popular Hong Kong musical acts.

For the first time at a rugby event in the Stadium, a stage in the North Stand will provide the perfect accompaniment to the pulsating action on the pitch with an array of live band performances, DJs spinning tunes and Chinese drums throughout the weekend.

As a reminder of what is at stake over the weekend, the North Stand stage will host a special performance, “A Taste of Rio”, featuring Brazilian dancers and Mardi Gras-style music.

Olympic Avenue

Hong Kong's sports federations are coming together with displays and activities that connect local sport participation with the Olympic opportunity that the event represents, including:

  • Hong Kong Golf Association – Skill Challenge mini game
  • Hong Kong Rowing Association booth
  • Hong Kong Triathlon Association – Historical Achievements display, and two stationary exercise bikes to try
  • The Sports Federation & Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China – Road to Rio Counter; chance to sign to support Hong Kong athletes; mini exhibition of Hong Kong’s sporting history.

Young Entertainment

The Qualifier tournament is perfect for families, especially as there’s free entry for 12-and-unders. When it’s time to take a break from the on-field action, a Kids Zone offers booths and carnival games, including face painters, balloon twisters, and four magic shows each day.

“Wai Bei” the Hong Kong Rugby Dragon mascot will be on hand for hugs and photos, while at the kids zone stage, youth-orientated performing groups will entertain the little ones throughout the tournament weekend.

Asian Food Festival

As representative teams from across Asia come together at So Kon Po, food outlets will be honouring our guests with a tempting array of popular cuisines from around the region, including Japanese, Thai, Malaysian and of course Chinese, provided by the likes of Amici, Holiday Inn, Mes Amis and Vitaland.

With a wide range of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages to match the best of Asian food, there’s no excuse not to have a good time!

TICKETING

Tickets for the Asia Rugby Sevens Qualifier in Hong Kong on 7-8 November are available online now. Adult prices for a full-weekend pass begin at HK$360 or HK$200 for a single-day ticket. Entry for children under the age of 12 is free of charge.

Click here to book now at Ticketflap.

NEED TO KNOW MORE?

For more information about Hong Kong’s efforts to qualify for Rio, visit asiarugby7s.hk/news/the-road-to-rio or check out World Rugby’s Olympics coverage www.worldrugby.org/olympics

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