The 16 captains gathered on Wednesday ahead of the highly anticipated Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens on 4-6 November, which sees the famous tournament return to Hong Kong Stadium for the first time since 2019.
Hong Kong kicks off a blockbuster schedule for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2023 with a full roster of teams and hosts as the dynamic, highly entertaining Olympic sport continues to grow, evolve and engage new fans around the globe.
The men’s Series will include a record-equalling 11 rounds while women’s Series has a record seven rounds, an increase of one from 2022. The men’s Series begins this weekend in Hong Kong, while the women kick-off in Dubai on 2-3, December.
The competition will be intense from start to finish with the prize of Olympic Games Paris 2024 qualification on offer for the top four teams in the 2023 Series standings.
The action kicks off in Hong Kong on Friday when Ireland face Kenya at 15:40 local time (GMT+8). Fiji begin their Hong Kong title defence in the fourth match of the day, against Japan, while newcomers Uruguay start against 2022 Commonwealth Games gold medallists South Africa.
Defending Series champions Australia have been drawn in Pool A alongside New Zealand, Samoa and invitational team Hong Kong.
South Africa, France, and Great Britain are joined by Series debutants Uruguay in Pool B.
Defending Rugby World Cup Sevens champions Fiji are in Pool C, aiming for a sixth straight title in Hong Kong. They will face the USA, Spain and Japan.
Argentina and Ireland, who qualified for the World Series on their last outing in Hong Kong in 2019, are joined by Kenya and Canada in Pool D.
Australia captain Nick Malouf said: “It’s great to be back. This is one of the premier tournaments and everyone knows the history of Hong Kong with a fantastic crowd so it’s great to be back here and we can’t wait to get out on the field on Friday. We’ve been able to keep pretty much the whole of the squad from last year and we’ve had a good pre-season so we can’t wait to get back out on the pitch.
“There’s a bit of extra pressure with the Olympic qualification and all the teams are going to be doing their best to get in the top four and secure their spot in Paris so with that pressure I’m sure everyone’s going to be stepping up an extra gear and it’s going to be a great Series.”
New Zealand captain Sam Dickson said: “We had a few injuries at the end of last season so it’s been good to have a bit of time off, get the boys back fresh and we’re ready to rip it. We’ve got a strong squad and we’re really looking forward to this season so there’ll be no excuses. Hong Kong will be a ripper to start with, they always put on a good show here and the crowd love their sevens so we can’t wait.”
Fiji captain Waisea Nacuqu said: “We were happy with our performance at the World Cup and now we are prepared for Hong Kong. Playing in Hong Kong is like playing in our home ground. We need the support of the Fiji fans and we know there will be a lot cheering for us this weekend.”
Uruguay captain Diego Ardao said: “We are delighted to be here and be part of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. It will be the experience of a lifetime. We have been preparing in a great way and we are ready for this challenge. We expect to make a good performance and an evolution from now until the end of the Series. We have some goals and objectives and we are looking forward to it.”
Hong Kong captain Max Woodward said: “We’ve got that buzz back this week, there’s a lot of excitement in the city and people have been waiting for a long time for this. It’s really exciting for us as players too, especially with a new squad and a lot of guys who have never played a Hong Kong sevens.”
World Rugby Chief Executive Alan Gilpin said: “Following a three-year interval due to the effects of the global pandemic it is fantastic for the sevens to be back in Hong Kong, and with the full line-up of teams in action, fans will be treated to a thrilling weekend of world class rugby sevens.
“Hong Kong Sevens is an iconic event with a rich history that has built a strong legacy. The sense of anticipation from players and teams to return to a much-loved venue such as Hong Kong is especially high after missing out since 2019.
“We would like to thank the Hong Kong Rugby Union and Hong Kong SAR Government for their support and efforts to bring the event back. The health and welfare of everyone involved remains our top priority and we thank all stakeholders for their collaboration and dedication to ensure the delivery of another safe and secure rugby sevens event.”
Uniquely the 2023 Series is featuring two rounds in Hong Kong, with a combined men’s and women’s event on 31 March-2 April, bringing both players and fans double the excitement of playing in one of the best loved rugby sevens tournaments in the world.
A vibrant atmosphere is anticipated with more than 30,000 fans expected on each day of the event.
Rugby sevens fans around the world can watch the action via live stream on World Rugby digital platforms including www.world.rugby, YouTube and Facebook in countries where there is no national broadcaster covering the event.
SOURCE: WORLD RUGBY/PACNEWS