IRB Announces Hong Kong Pools–Does USA No Favors

The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union recently announced the pools for the Hong Kong Sevens, the next leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series. Long considered the premier event in the Sevens World Series Calendar, the Hong Kong Sevens has long hosted 24 teams, in six pools of four, as opposed to the four pools of four that every other tournament has. This gives exposure to more nations which might have been passed over for the other tournaments, such as this year’s entrants Spain, the Philippines, Russia, Portugal, China and others.

(You can find the full listings of HK Sevens pools here)

The United States finds itself in Pool B, facing off with Sevens World Series leader New Zealand, last year’s USA Sevens champions (and sitting in third place in this year’s standings) South Africa and plucky U.K. representative #8 ranked Wales. While the U.S. went winless the first day of the USA Sevens tournament, the Eagles were able to score a nice win against France before being eliminated by the Aussies in the Bowl semifinals. Will the USA be able to carry their form against France through to the Hong Kong Sevens?

Another SuperSite favorite, Kenya, might be able to find a better result in the Far East. Facing USA Sevens champions Samoa, as well as England and Argentina in Pool A. While each of these teams are ranked above Kenya, the Kenyans have been able to pull out many close matches against top talent in recent years (remember their back and forth match with the All Blacks at the 2011 USA Sevens). Plus with stars like Collins Injere coming back from injury to the team, the Kenyans have the potential to pull an upset on at least Argentina, and possibly Samoa.

One of the problems for the US, and other smaller rugby nations, in the USA Sevens might have been the quick turnaround between the New Zealand Sevens and the event in Las Vegas – less than a week to return to the States, shake off the jetlag of 16+ hours in the air and return to form. Now the teams in the World Sevens Series have over a month and a half before they have to return to the pitch at the Hong Kong Sevens, giving them plenty of time to recover and prepare.

NOTE: The Hong Kong Sevens is one of the world’s most storied and popular sevens tournaments, starting in 1976 after a discussion between the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union and an executive from the Rothmans’ Tobacco company. The inaugural Hong Kong Sevens tournament hosted national teams from throughout the Asia-Pacific Rim, as well as representative teams from Australia and New Zealand.

For decades since the inaugural Hong Kong Sevens, the tournament became THE event to follow if you were a Sevens Rugby fan, especially for the excited and rambunctious fans, who are often worth the price of entry alone. It can also be argued (and I often do) that the popularity of the Hong Kong Sevens, along with a select few other Sevens Tournaments (Scotland’s Border Sevens among them) for fostering the eventual creation of the IRB Sevens World Cup and the current Sevens World Series.