Dublin – Ireland, Mar 21, 2013: The coaches of all 28 teams have declared their final squads of 12 for the Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, round 6 of the HSBC Sevens World Series.
In the main 16-team competition, DJ Forbes returns from injury to captain Series leaders New Zealand as they set out to take on USA, Kenya and France. Former captain James Stannard also makes a welcome return as Australia set out to improve on their 11th place in the Series, starting with three tough pool matches against South Africa, Argentina and Wales.
Canada, currently one place above the Australians in 10th, make a late change with Jeff Hassler replaced by Mike Fuailefau. The Canadians line up in Pool D against hosts Hong Kong, Spain and Fiji. And in the fourth and final pool, Dubai champions Samoa recall match-winner Paul Perez to their line-up as they get set for three difficult matches against Scotland, England and Portugal.
12 regional sides battle to keep core team aspirations alive
While the top 16 – the current 15 core teams and Asian champions, Hong Kong – compete in the main competition, 12 regional qualifiers will be looking to keep alive their hopes of gaining core team status on the 2013/14 Series.
To do that they will need to finish in the top four of their 12-team competition in order to book a place in the promotion / relegation play-off finale in London in May.
Tonga line up in Hong Kong pool play against Uruguay, Tunisia and Chinese Taipei. In the second pool, next week’s Tokyo hosts Japan will play Georgia and the only two teams making their Hong Kong tournament debuts, Jamaica and Brazil.
Zimbabwe name the most experienced side in the second tier competition, Lucky Sithole their only player not to have played before on the World Series. They line up against Rugby World Cup Sevens hosts Russia, Cook Islands and Mexico.
Hong Kong makes new Sevens broadcast record
With a new high of 28 countries participating in Hong Kong, the event has also attracted more live broadcast takers than ever before with 23 airing live coverage in 144 countries, a new record for a single round of the Series.
After five rounds of the 2012/13 HSBC Sevens World Series there have been five different winners. Fiji won the opener in Australia; Samoa claimed the cup in Dubai; New Zealand triumphed in South Africa; England won in New Zealand and South Africa took the USA Sevens in Las Vegas. As the only side to have reached all five Cup quarter-final rounds, New Zealand lie first in the standings on 96 points followed by South Africa (73), Samoa (71), Fiji (66), France (59) and Kenya (57). —- IRB