Twelve men’s and women’s International teams will compete alongside the ‘big guns’ in a three day tournament in Hong Kong. In the competition that runs alongside the feature tournament, all sides will be aiming to join the World Rugby series, and become a core team member if they win the 2018/19 HSBC Sevens Series Qualifiers.
The huge prize on other–replacing the lowest placed women’s and men’s sides respectively–is a fantastic opportunity. Qualified teams from the five key regions of World Rugby have all gathered together to fight for single spots.
This weekend’s winners will get an automatic spot to the 2018/19 HSBC Sevens Series.
Spain in the 2017 men’s and Japan in the women’s draws, were winners last year. And while they have tried their best, each are likely to be losing their spots [as a core team next season] at the end of the current season. But, as one men’s and women’s teams are removed, new sides are ready to jump right in.
The game continues to grow and the perfect illustration of that is this weekends qualifiers. Teams from all corners of the Globe travel to compete for that one place. This fast paced game has a great appeal to the masses, who pour into the massive Hong Kong stadium. And while these 24 teams compete ‘on the fringes’ for Day One of the Sevens Series Qualifiers, they still hold the attention of their home nation.
Also, the weekend is more than just about the results on the field. To ‘grow the game’ and to invite the young and old to Try Rugby – above, with legend Waisale Serevi here tossing the ball around with children.
2018/19 core places: Japan and South Africa hot favorites
The Japanese men’s side will be going ‘all out’ to retain their spot they lost to Spain last season. But the Asian team won’t have it all their way. Ireland has impressed on the European circuit, so too have the Germans.
Another strong contender is Uganda. They have been knocking hard the past two years, falling short on the big occasions–given many opportunities at the Dubai and South African legs of the World Series. And will be out to go all the way. However, don’t count out the Papua New Guinean, along with the host Hong Kong side. They can rise up to defy the odds.
Sides that are improving, are Uruguay and Chile. They bring in their South American flavor, along with Jamaica from the North American region. Georgia are the new boys, and if they can match the XV’s teams success – they will be super competitive.
The men will push hard, but it is the women’s game; across the board, that is showing the highest level of improvement. In terms of the technical and skill level, but in commitment to using the ball. It now has fans asking ‘should I watch the women’s games or the men?’
South Africa leads the charge in this category, as they have the highest experience level; playing on the World series many times. They have the best chance, but – like in any sevens games – there are no guarantees.
2018/19 Sevens Series Qualifiers: the LOWDOWN
Pool A – South Africa, Kenya, PNG, Mexico
The most competitive pool has to be this one. It houses three sides that will bring a high level of competition.
The Lady Blitzbokke side has a powerful squad named by coach Paul Delport. The likes of Zenay Stadler and Nadine Roos, together with Megan Comely and Veronishka Grain will be fully focused on the goal ahead. They can attack from anywhere, and on their history of regional and International performances, will be favorites.
Doreen Nziwa, Rachael Mbvongo, Celestine Masinde together with Janet Owino and Janet Okelo will lead the Kenyan charge. They have a well established domestic competition, and if their men’s team can perform on the world stage, then so can the ladies.
Papua New Guinea will bank on speedster Joanne Lagona to spearhead their campaign. A damn good finisher, and powerful on defence too, with Debbie Kaore helping the PNG girls aim high at Hong Kong.
Pool B – Brazil, China, Kazakhstan, Hong Kong
Brazil have the experience playing in the series previously, with Beatriz Futuro leading the charge. A long list of names, including Luiza Campos, Paula Ishabashi, Halie Scatrut, Isadora Cerullo, Claudia Teles and Amanda Araujo are all back to fight for the 2018/19 HSBC Sevens Series Qualifiers spot.
The three Asian sides will go ‘all out’ for a spot with the big guns. China have invested much, and will want to show their local supporters that the Communist state has embraced the sport of rugby sevens.
The Kazakhstan side will be physical, as will China with their speed, and Hong Kong with their enthusiasm. Watch out for the big boots of local girl, Natasha Olssen Thorne.
Hong Kong will undoubtedly have the strongest support, but across all the sides, the fans will enjoy the women’s tournament as much as the men’s.
Pool C – Belgium, Poland, Argentina, Wales
Wales is serious about their series aspirations, and has brought the best. Shona Powell Hughes and Jasmin Joyce lead the charge–which is a good hit out, leading up to the Commonwealth Games.
Belgium, Poland and Argentina have unknown names but they will be feisty and competitive, just as all the teams shall be.
Note: the Women’s Sevens Series Qualifiers are completed Friday night. Results will be published on Saturday, for both women’s and men’s draws.
If the men’s draw can also bring the level of enthusiasm (as the women will) then the qualifiers will bring some genuine competition. And that is what all these teams must be prepared for.
This stage is the final step towards core status on the HSBC Sevens Series. So the opposition and the quality of rugby sevens will be up to a high standard. Fans in Hong Kong, and watching and streaming from around the world, all want the same. The very best qualifying for the World series.
Pool E – Japan, Uganda, Chile, Georgia
Japan, Chile and Uganda will fight hard in Pool A, with the Japanese as favorites. The Pacific boys within that team will likely be the difference. And with the experience of past seasons, they must take all of the ‘intelligence’ into this weekend.
Chile and Uganda were impressive in their series outings, and will be competitive here. Georgia are the Eastern European representatives and can justify their place with a good showing….and can surprise any team, any time.
Pool F – Papua New Guinea, Hong Kong, Germany, Zimbabwe
This is a tough pool to call. It has four sides that each has both pedigree in World Rugby, but also a depth in rugby sevens.
Hong Kong and Germany look poised to demonstrate their credentials, to claim the Sevens Series Qualifiers position. And that is as much on ‘how they play’ rather than who they are. Along with Papua New Guinea.
However, the Zimbabwe boys can turn up the heat anytime and [might] create upsets. It will be the ‘Pool of Death’ as such.
Pool G – Ireland, Uruguay, Cook Islands, Jamaica
Ireland and Uruguay expected to qualify for the quarter-finals from this pool but, the Cook Islands can cause upsets. If they can build a combination, they can be very competitive.
And then we have Jamaica…..an unknown factor. But, they have local experience in the RANs 7s series, and World Rugby have invested well in the Caribbean. Let us see what they can lay down over this weekend before making any predictions.
The same must be said for every one of the men’s and the women’s sides. They all compete from Thursday, with the final pool and knockout stage matches occurring at on the famed Hong Kong Stadium. It will be a fantastic climax to the 2018/19 HSBC Sevens Series Qualifiers – and those matches deserve everyone one of yours attention.
Will Japan and South Africa reach their goals
The competition is tough, all teams chasing that one spot on the women’s or the men’s tour. And only ‘the fittest will survive’.
Fans of the game should expect good competition from Chile, Papua New Guinea and Germany – who have all improved vastly. Though the favourites, the Japanese men (see main picture) could be hard to beat.
It’s also hard to look past South Africa in the women’s bracket but Wales, Hong Kong and Brazil are certainly ready to fight hard for their place. All teams have plenty of ammunition but individually [across the women’s competition], the one to watch is Joanne Lagona of PNG.
So much to look forward to but, when any of these teams get their chance to play in front of big crowds – like at the Hong Kong Sevens – it really reinforces the depth, and strength of this sport.
zhù nǐ hǎo yùn