World's Greatest Rugby Sevens Party Ready for
Kick Off in Hong Kong
The Cathay / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens returns to full
throttle this weekend as Hong Kong’s premier sporting event
welcomes the world back to town with three days of action and
entertainment at the Hong Kong Stadium.
Engines were started last November when a special
edition of the Sevens was held as Hong Kong, the spiritual home of
the game and the leg which is widely regarded as the greatest
rugby sevens party in the world, re-opened its doors
This time around all social distancing
restrictions are long gone, and the stadium is set to fully rock
once again with over 35,000 spectators expected on opening night
as 16 men’s and 12 women’s teams gather for this leg of the HSBC
World Rugby Sevens Series.
For the very first time in the Hong Kong Sevens’
storied history, both men’s and women’s competitions will play out
simultaneously on the big stage, adding even more excitement to
the largest tournament on the global circuit.
Last November saw reigning HSBC World Rugby Sevens
Series champions Australia break a 34-year drought when lifting
the cup and coach John Manenti said the memories of that 20-17 win
over Fiji, who were trying to clinch a sixth consecutive HK7s
title, in November would linger for a long time indeed.
“It's the biggest stage and it doesn't get bigger
than beating Fiji in Hong Kong,” said Manenti. “It was just an
amazing experience. We're pretty excited to get back there and
have another crack at it. I said to the boys that it’s more than
likely they'll never have two Hong Kong's in one season again so
if nothing else, we'll write ourselves a piece of history that
probably can't be repeated by going back and winning again.”
The Aussies are drawn in Pool C alongside the USA,
Spain and Japan. Pool A is meanwhile led by Argentina, who have
shaken up the series so far after victories in Hamilton and in
Vancouver last time out. They’ll be looking to charge towards a
first-ever Hong Kong title having been drawn for the early
exchanges against Fiji, Samoa and Canada.
Series leaders New Zealand have really clicked
into gear, winning two out of the past three tournaments, and
they’ve been drawn in Pool D alongside Ireland, Kenya and South
Local fans will be focusing their attention on
Pool B, where Hong Kong, China have been drawn against France,
Great Britain and Uruguay. Hong Kong skipper Max Woodward has
taken heart from some gutsy performances the local lads turned in
back in November - and to an emerging squad bristling with talent.
“It's the most competitive squad there’s ever been
in my career,” said Woodward. “November was an emotional
tournament, just looking out into the crowd and seeing all those
Hong Kong fans, and there was a buzz around the new players in our
squad. We have to be a little bit more clinical to get results but
November gave us a bit of confidence that there are results out
there for us.”
The competition in the women’s tournament is
equally fierce as New Zealand and Australia are neck and neck at
the top as the action arrives in Hong Kong.
The home side have drawn a challenging welcome in
Pool A with series leaders New Zealand and Great Britain and
Canada both intent on Olympic qualification. Pool B sees
Australia, Fiji, Ireland and Brazil, while Pool C features USA,
France, Japan and Spain.
This weekend also marks the return of some very
special participants with the fabled Hong Kong Sevens march past
once again showcasing thousands of the city’s mini and youth rugby
With two members of the current men’s sevens squad
(Hugo Stiles and James Christie) having first played inside the
stadium 15 years ago at U9s level, and now on the eve of making
their Hong Kong Sevens debuts in 2023, the impact of the weekend
is plain to see.
With Hong Kong’s women’s stars sharing the stage
for the first time, the hero effect will be on full display
believes debutant Agnes Tse Wing-kiu.
“We are showing young girls that there really is a
chance here with rugby,” Agnes said. “The game is growing and the
opportunities are also growing. Now we get to play at the Hong
Kong stadium with the best teams and atmosphere there is. We can
show them how far playing rugby can take you.”
With masks off and smiles on, Hong Kong’s
estimable corporate community is returning in force with
hospitality spaces in stadium at near sell-out levels, while
international demand is climbing back to pre-pandemic levels as
well. Over 20% of tickets purchased in the public sale are coming
from overseas audiences signalling Hong Kong’s return is in full
Unusually, a limited number of tickets are still
available. Prices for a three-day pass are $1,950 for adults and
$950 for children 12 and under.
The Cathay / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2023 is a “M”
Mark event that helps enhance the image of Hong Kong as Asia’s
sports events capital. The “M” Mark is awarded by the Major Sports
Events Committee and symbolises an intense, spectacular and
signature event in the territory’s sports calendar.
The Cathay / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens was last held
in March in 2019.
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