Who’s playing whom at Hong Kong Sevens 2016? Results from official draw

Friday, 18 March 2016 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) has held the official draw for the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2016 and the Hong Kong Women’s Rugby Sevens 2016 (HKWRS).

Three draws were held for the Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens – Round Seven of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, among the 15 series teams plus South Korea, World Rugby’s nominated 16th team – and the 12-team World Rugby Sevens Series Qualifier, which will be played concurrently. The draw for the 10-team HKWRS was also held.

At the halfway point of this year’s Series, and with Rugby Sevens soon to debut at the Rio Olympics, the action to date has been compelling. Fiji are atop the standings on 106 points, ahead of South Africa (105) and New Zealand (104), winners of the sixth round in Vancouver (12-13 March).

All eleven of the presently qualified teams for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games will be present in Hong Kong along with 12 of the 16 teams taking part in the final men’s Olympic qualification tournament in Monaco in June.

With the addition of the Qualifier, the Hong Kong Sevens remains the largest tournament on the series, with 28 teams playing across three days. The 2016 tournament will feature 70 men’s matches and the Cup Final of the Hong Kong Women’s Rugby Sevens.

The debut of the Cayman Islands in the Qualifier brings the number of competing nations in Hong Kong to 60 since 1976, while 39 countries have been represented in the HKWRS in its 19-year history, confirming the tournament’s tagline: ‘Hong Kong Sevens, Where the World Comes to Play’.

In the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2016, series leaders Fiji will top Pool D, alongside Wales, Canada and South Korea.

South Africa, runners-up in the series after reaching the final in last weekend’s competition in Vancouver, are the top seeds in Pool B, with Scotland, England and Russia.

New Zealand, winners in Canada, top Pool A with Samoa, France and Kenya.

Finally, Australia, in fourth place on the Series, are in Pool C with USA, Argentina and Portugal.

The winner of the 12-team Qualifier, featuring two teams from each of World Rugby’s six regions, will earn promotion to next year’s Series, replacing the bottom-ranked team after the completion of the 2015-16 season. Russia was promoted from last year’s tournament in Hong Kong.

The Qualifier teams are Morocco and Zimbabwe (Africa), Hong Kong and Japan (Asia), Germany and Spain (Europe), Cayman Islands and Mexico (North America), Brazil and Chile (South America) and Papua New Guinea and Tonga (Oceania).

Alongside debutants the Cayman Islands, Germany appears for the first time since 1992, and could receive an emotional boost from the recent announcement of David Hasselhoff’s appearance at this year’s tournament. Hasselhoff is highly regarded in the country where his 1989 New Year concert at the Berlin Wall was attended by hundreds of thousands of Germans.

For the 12-team Qualifier draw, the teams were banded into four groups of three teams each by World Rugby, based on their performances on the Series and at other international sevens events over the preceding two years. The banded teams were then drawn to complete Pools E, F and G of the tournament. The Series teams and those in the Qualifier will not play against each other.

Pool E features Zimbabwe, hosts Hong Kong, Germany and debutants the Cayman Islands. Pool F comprises Spain, Chile, Papua New Guinea and Mexico, while lining up in Pool G are Japan, Tonga, Brazil and Morocco.

Following Monday’s draw, Hong Kong coach and former Wales Sevens international Gareth Baber, said, “With the top 15 teams here, and the Rio Olympics just around the corner, the Hong Kong Sevens is going to be even more exciting than usual. In the Hong Kong team, it’s always our aim to get into semi-finals and finals. We did it in the qualifying for Rio against Japan but we’ve not been able to do the same at the last two Hong Kong Sevens. So that’s our ambition this time.”

Asked how the tournament might play out, Baber noted that “I’ve been hugely impressed by New Zealand recently. They just have the attitude to go out and win games. And New Zealand love playing here, and never miss a beat.”

Women’s Draw

Ten teams will contest the HKWRS, the 19th anniversary of this pioneering women’s competition. The top four participating teams, based on international and regional rankings and past performances in the Hong Kong tournament, were placed as the top two seeds in two five-team pools.

Expect plenty more great Rugby Sevens action like this at the Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2016 (8-10 April)

The seeded teams in Pool A are France and South Africa, with Kazakhstan, China and Kenya drawn at random tonight to join them. Japan and Hong Kong are the top and second seeds respectively in Pool B, and they are joined by Argentina, Thailand and Sri Lanka.

Hong Kong women’s sevens coach and former New Zealand Black Fern Anna Richards believes Hong Kong have a challenge in their group.

“Argentina are a tough team to play, and Japan are always a big threat,” said Anna who added that the team will be well prepared, with spirits high and the players “confident that they have the proven ability to beat any of the teams they are up against.”

The Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens will be played from 8-10 April 2016 at the sold-out 40,000-seat Hong Kong Stadium.