Rugby Sevens teams cut to 16 when tournament returns in November

Staff reporter

The popular Hong Kong Rugby Sevens is expected to return this year with 16 teams, eight fewer than previously.

The much-anticipated Sevens, a major draw for the SAR, returns after a break of almost three years because of the pandemic, though the scale will be much reduced when it is held on November 4-6.

Commissioner for Sports Yeung Tak-keung revealed the cutback to 16 teams during an interview with The Standard’s sister newspaper, Sing Tao Daily.

Yeung said plans were for the Hong Kong Rugby Union to arrange for 15 foreign teams to compete with the Hong Kong team in the Cup, Plate and Bowl competitions as in previous tournaments.

“Applications have been opened after the Hong Kong Rugby Union announced a resumption of the tournament,” Yeung said, “but we don’t know the response yet. It depends on the world rankings to confirm which teams will come to Hong Kong.

“But we believe the Hong Kong Rugby Union has confidence it will see 16 teams in the competitions or they would not have announced the resumption of the tournament.”

Despite there being fewer teams, Yeung said Hong Kong will be welcoming hundreds of players, team officials and referees for the tournament.

Under current pandemic rules they will have to undergo a mandatory three-day hotel quarantine and four days of medical surveillance when entering a closed-loop arrangement.

The union will book an entire quarantine hotel for teams to stay on different floors, with players needing to undergo daily Covid tests, and they will travel to practice and competition venues in point-to-point transport.

“Rugby is a team sport in which players need to train together and staff will need to have meetings, which is completely different from individual sports games,” Yeung noted.

“The government has a preliminary understanding of the union’s plan, and we agree with them in implementing it,”

Yeung also said the crowds at this Sevens will be mainly locals, though he believed the “3+4” quarantine arrangement will attract people from outside Hong Kong to attend.

Besides the Sevens, Yeung said at least six international sports tournaments are being planned, including the Hong Kong Football Association intending to stage international friends next month when foreign teams will be invited.

Top snooker players from around the world are also being invited to join the Hong Kong Masters in October after a five-year absence.

The Hong Kong Cross-Harbor swimming race is also scheduled for October.

In November, Hong Kong will also see the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon as well as Hong Kong Open Badminton Championships after two years of cancellations.

And the Hong Kong Open Golf event and a half marathon run on the Hong Kong-Zhuha-Macau Bridge are expected to be held next year.

Yeung believes some overseas athletes will be willing to undergo the relaxed quarantine, and sports associations will study the most suitable arrangements for athletes to visit Hong Kong.

“Since the hotel quarantine period is much shorter now we can arrange for treadmills in hotel rooms for marathon runners to train during the quarantine period and have other training arrangements during the medical surveillance period,” Yeung said.


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