With four of the 10 rounds remaining, the series race could not be tighter: defending Hong Kong champions Fiji arrive as Series leaders on 106 points, just one ahead of second-placed South Africa who are in turn a point clear of New Zealand. A resurgent Australia and a fast-emerging USA complete the top five.
“It’s amazing how time has flown by. It only seems like yesterday that it was the start of the series and now today we are four months away from the Olympic Games, which is hugely exciting,” said Fiji coach, Ben Ryan.
“We’re here in Hong Kong and this is a mini peak for everyone I’m sure, a bit of a dress rehearsal for the Olympics, a litmus test to see if everything we’re looking to do is falling into place. I think every other team is going to be looking for a win in Hong Kong, to give them that confidence to know that when the pressure comes on you can deliver. So far the boys are in great shape and they want to defend their title this weekend.”
Fiji’s captain, Osea Kolinisau, added: “The week so far in Hong Kong has been good and we have been able to work on some things in training that we wanted to improve on from Vancouver. It was a short turnaround from Vancouver but we can’t complain too much about that. Hong Kong is here now and every team has had the same turnaround, but it’s definitely going to be a tough one this weekend.”
“This qualifying tournament is getting tougher every year. You just have to look at the quality of the likes of Japan, Spain, Brazil, Zimbabwe – all teams who have had a go on the World Series this year and played against the top teams. That’s what we’re all after. We’ve prepared well, the boys have worked hard but with home advantage comes an added pressure in terms of expectation,” said Hong Kong coach, Gareth Baber. Four months out from rugby sevens’ Olympic debut, this year’s Hong Kong tournament also provides an interesting insight for many of the teams. While all 11 Rio-qualified men’s teams will play over the weekend, Asia’s showpiece event also hosts 11 of the 16 teams set to battle for the one remaining place in the men’s Rio draw at the repechage play-off in Monaco at the end of June.
Across the three days in Hong Kong 120,000 spectators are expected to attend, which will push the total attendance on this year’s Series past half a million spectators.
“By every measure this has been the biggest and best series to date.” said World Rugby’s Competitions & Events Manager for Sevens, Douglas Langley.
“It is no coincidence that this weekend already we will pass 500,000 spectators, and ultimately smash the total attendance record for the season by close to 150,000. And what a spectacle the fans have watched. All the teams and athletes continue to do the sport proud.”