Grand Slam success is within reach for Ireland as they prepare to face England this Saturday, St. Patrick’s Day, in Twickenham. In the mean time, Ireland’s Sevens team prepares for a journey east, as they return to the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens in April, appearing for the first time since 2000, when they won the Bowl.
The Irish are among the 12 teams contesting the international qualifier tournament for the World Rugby HSBC Sevens World Series in Hong Kong. In the headline event, the 15 teams of this year’s World Rugby HSBC Sevens Series are joined by South Korea, at the invitation of World Rugby, for a total of 28 men’s teams participating in 2018, confirming Hong Kong’s status as the largest tournament on the World Rugby HSBC Sevens Series.
Ireland qualified for Hong Kong based on a strong showing in the 2017 European Grand Prix of Sevens, claiming second overall behind Russia after winning two of the four tournaments and finishing in third place in the other two Series events.
The 15 teams that feature in all ten tournaments on the international series will once again be the stars of the show in Hong Kong, delighting the expected cumulative 120,000 fans attending this year’s tournament.
Those teams are: series leaders South Africa, Argentina, Australia, Canada, England, Fiji, France, Kenya, New Zealand, Russia, Samoa, Scotland, Spain, United States and Wales. South Korea are the 16th team after finishing in third on last year’s Asia Rugby Sevens Series, behind Japan and Hong Kong who advanced to the international qualifier in Hong Kong.
Fiji are the defending Hong Kong Sevens Cup champions after their 22-0 win over South Africa last April. Following previous Cup wins in 2016 and 2015, Fiji will be bidding for a first-ever four-peat in the 43 years of sevens rugby in Hong Kong.
2017 marked a record 17th Hong Kong Cup for Fiji, and their fifth in six years at their spiritual home away from home; New Zealand are second in the cup-winning stakes in Hong Kong with 11.
Fiji are presently in third place on the HSBC SWS table with 62 points following their win in the most recent leg in Hamilton, New Zealand.
A model of consistency, South Africa top the Series table on 77 points, after winning the opening tournament in Dubai and reaching the final in both Australia and New Zealand. While they have appeared in the final on five occasions in Hong Kong, South Africa are the only Sevens superpower yet to lift the Cup in the Hong Kong Stadium.
Chasing South Africa in the Series stakes are New Zealand on 69 points, Fiji, and then in fourth place on 60 points Australia, buoyed by a win at their home event in Sydney in January.