HKFRU and James Mortimer 19.Jan.2013Getty Images
2013 marks the first time in the 38-year history of the Hong Kong Sevens that 28 teams have been hosted, up from the current 24-team format which was first adopted in 1984.
The 2013 Hong Kong Sevens will again host two side-by-side competitions, a 16-team HSBC Sevens World Series (HSBC SWS) competition for the 15 core teams on the Series plus Hong Kong, winners of the HSBC Asian Sevens Series in 2012, and a 12-team pre-qualification tournament for promotion to HSBC SWS core team status in 2014.
Mr Trevor Gregory, Chairman of the HKRFU commented on today's announcement saying, "The HKRFU and the Hong Kong rugby community look forward to hosting the biggest and best ever Hong Kong Sevens in 2013. The decision to host the pre-qualification tournament alongside the HSBC Sevens World Series competition continues to reinforce Hong Kong's unique role as the host of the world's largest and most international rugby sevens competition."
The 16 teams participating in the core competition are Argentina, Australia, Canada, England, Fiji, France, Kenya, New Zealand, Portugal, Samoa, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, United States, Wales and Hong Kong.
Reinforcing Hong Kong's unique position as the largest and most international HSBC SWS event, the remaining 12 competing teams in the pre-qualification tournament hail from all over the world with two teams from each of the IRB's geographic regions.
Tonga and the Cook Islands will bolster the Hong Kong Seven's traditional Pacific Island presence, while Georgia and Russia represent Europe's hopes for HSBC SWS qualification. Zimbabwe and Tunisia will add to the African contingent next March while Mexico and Jamaica will both mark a return to the Hong Kong Sevens from the North American region.
Closer to home, the Hong Kong Sevens continues its role as the showcase event for Asian rugby with the region's second and third-ranked sevens teams, Japan and Chinese Taipei rounding out the regional participants.
Two additional teams from South America will be decided after regional competitions in late February to complete the 12-team field. The top four teams from the pre-qualifier will join Hong Kong and the three bottom-placed HSBC SWS teams in an eight-team competition at the London Sevens in May to decide promotion to the 2014 Series.
Three legs of the 2013 HSBC SWS have been held to date (Australia, Dubai and South Africa), each being won by a different nation as Fiji took first honours in Australia, Samoa won in Dubai and New Zealand claimed the title in South Africa. Upcoming tournaments prior to Hong Kong will be held in New Zealand and the USA.
The HSBC SWS standings point to the continued parity and increasing competitiveness in world sevens. New Zealand are in first with 60 points followed by this year's surprise package France in second place on 46 points. Fiji are third with 44 points, followed by South Africa on 41 points. Samoa is in fifth place with 39 points. Kenya, Argentina, Wales, Portugal and Australia round out the top ten.
Perennial sevens power England have had a slow start to their season and currently lie in an uncharacteristic 13th place. England who have won four titles in Hong Kong will be hoping to set their ship to rights in front of their supportive audiences at the Hong Kong Stadium.
The Tournament Draw for the participating teams will be held in Hong Kong on Thursday, February 21, after the completion of the USA Sevens in Las Vegas.
The Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2013 expects to welcome a total of 120,000 spectators over the three day-event, reaffirming the strong local and international demand that has made Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Sevens one of the world's leading rugby destinations.
To better accommodate increasing local and international demand, the HKRFU is distributing tickets by public ballot for the 2013 tournament for the first time in tournament history. The final 4,000 tickets remaining in the 40,000-seat capacity stadium will be drawn by ballot on Thursday, February 7, ensuring another sold-out Sevens in 2013.
Organised by the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union and co-title sponsored by Cathay Pacific Airways and HSBC, the Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens will be held from Friday, March 22, to Sunday, March 24, at the iconic Hong Kong Stadium.
For more information about Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2013, please visit the official website at www.hksevens.com and Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HongKong7s.