It’s Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens eve. That’s right, Hong Kong’s biggest sporting event gets under way tomorrow, with the locals in action from 1.50pm.
Also, the Women’s Rugby Sevens Series qualifier begins today, with Hong Kong taking on Kenya, Argentina and Belgium.
Meanwhile, catch up with some of our team’s latest reports:
- How Hong Kong women’s star Amelie ‘Frenchie’ Seure plans to tackle her seventh Sevens
- Fijian sevens stars sparkle for UBB Gavekal as Hong Kong Tens kicks off
- Fiji legend Waisale Serevi tips this year’s Hong Kong Sevens to be the most open in years
- England coach Simon Amor dismisses the suggestion that the quality of the World Series is down
Watch: GFI HKFC Tens live
CFL giant looking to do an Ebner and play sevens
Canadian Football League defensive back Tevaughn Campbell is looking to do a Nate Ebner and try his hand at rugby sevens. The Saskatchewan Roughriders player will be with the Canadian team at the Hong Kong Sevens but coach Damian McGrath said the 23-year-old won’t play.
Ebner took time off playing for New England Patriots to represent the US in last year’s Hong Kong Sevens and the Olympics in Rio.
“He’s going to immerse himself in sevens,” McGrath is quoted as saying. “He came to watch the Sevens in Vancouver and liked what he saw.
“He’s the type of athlete who’s never touched a rugby ball in his life but has terrific speed and physicality. We’re actively looking outside of rugby for the type of players that we hope can add some quality to our squad.”
The six-foot, 200-pounder from Toronto is one of the fastest men in the CFL, having run the 60 metres in 6.67 seconds last year.
“He fancies the opportunity,” said McGrath. “He’d like to have a look and explore it further.
“We’re just going to take him with us to Hong Kong and Singapore as our 14th man. He can train with the players and just have a look at what it takes to play rugby.”
England’s Dan Norton aims for try-scoring record
Try-machine Dan Norton has a world record in his sights as England seek a long-awaited victory at this week’s Hong Kong Sevens to close the gap on series leaders South Africa.
The 28-year-old wing heads into the annual showpiece of sevens rugby level on 244 tries with Kenya’s Collins Injera, and vying to seize sole ownership of the all-time record for sevens tries.
England coach Simon Amor, who led Great Britain to Olympic silver in Rio last year, was full of praise for Norton, a career sevens specialist, as the milestone approaches.
“Players like Dan, they really set the world on fire and it makes the game so exciting to watch,” Amor said.
“They’re fundamental to growing the game so it’s great to have all these superstars out there.”
Norton, who made his England debut in 2009, also starred in Britain’s Olympic campaign last year, when they lost in the final to a rampant Fiji.
“Certainly one of the key aspects of Dan Norton is that he is quick -- which helps because he is a winger -- and he’s got wonderful feet,” Amor said.
“I still think there are improvements to make, which is quite exciting, and he’s only 28 so he’s got a few more years left.”
England haven’t won in Hong Kong since 2006, the last in a sequence of four wins in five years during Amor’s playing days.
Friends in life and rugby
They grew up together in Cambridge, New Zealand. They played school and club rugby together and went to the same university.
Now the two friends are lining up alongside each other in front of 40,000 fans as they represent Hong Kong at the Hong Kong Sevens.
Value of Sport forum a winner
The Hong Kong Rugby Union Community Foundation hosted a lunch on the Value of Sport today, preceded by three fascinating workshops.
First up, triple GB Paralympian, wheelchair rugby player Andy Barrow, gave a talk on how overcoming adversity, after he suffered a spinal cord injury that left him a paraplegic aged just 17.
Trevor Ringland, former Ireland and British and Irish Lions player then gave some insight into how sport has helped heal some of the divisions in his native Northern Ireland.
Next was a discussion on how sport can help troubled youngsters, with Operation Breakthrough founder Ian Seabourne and two players from Saracens – who spend £1 million a year on community projects – Charlie Hodgson and Neil de Kock.
At lunch, sporting greats associated with the Laureus Foundation – five-time Olympic gold medal winner Steve Redgrave, four-time Chinese gold medal winning gymnast Li Xiaopeng and rugby greats Sean Fitzpatrick, Jean de Villiers and Andrew Mehrtens – gave insights into how sport had changed their lives for the better.
With local community leaders, local sports, charity and government representatives in attendance, it was an inspirational morning – although as Barrow said, “I prefer motivation rather than inspiration” ie taking action.
Hong Kong Sevens and the Muppets – shared history
There will be more than a handful of fans at the Hong Kong Stadium this weekend who were there for the first Hong Kong Sevens in 1976, held at Football Club.
Did they realise they were involved in the start of something so big, it would end up in rugby being re-admitted into the Olympic fold under the sevens format. According to ESPN, those who were there in 1976 would also have been witness to other major launches that would have a global impact. Among them were:
1. Irish rock band U2 in the process of being formed
2. Steve Jobs was founding Apple
3. The Muppet Show made their official premiere on television. Kermit and Hong Kong Sevens going hand in hand.
‘World Cup, Mardi Gras and music festival – all in fancy dress’
Head of the Hong Kong Sevens Sam Pinder, a New Zealand-born former Scottish international, was asked how he would describe the Hong Kong Sevens to someone who has never been before.
“A three day rugby party that is a mixture of a World Cup, a Mardi Gras carnival, and a music festival – all in fancy dress,” he said.
“We expect some red-hot rugby on the pitch as there is much interest in whether or not South Africa can win their first Hong Kong Sevens.
“We have also added more entertainment with live bands playing over all three days so expect the stadium to be jumping from Friday noon when the first game kicks off.”
Hamstring stretch genius: Australia’s Jenkins set for 50th tournament
If see you some of the things Australia’s Ed Jenkins can do in gym training, you’d know why he is one of the hardest-working and most reliable players on the world sevens circuit.
Without attracting the fanfare, the 30-year-old Jenkins is set to make his 50th tournament appearance for the Wallabies at the Hong Kong Sevens, just like South Africa’s Cecil Afrika.
Australia are sixth in the series standings on 62 points and coach Andy Friend is focusing on the long-term strategy heading into Hong Kong, according to media reports.
“The team has come together really well after Vancouver and we have looked at the areas of our game we needed to amend heading into Hong Kong,” he was quoted as saying.
“Welcoming back Jesse Parahi, Boyd Killingworth, John Porch and Charlie Taylor offers us some different options in attack as we look to make the most of our opportunities in possession.
“The world series is a marathon, not a sprint and now is the time for this team to galvanise together and put out some strong consistent performances into the back end of the season.”
Watch Ed’s amazing hamstring stretch below.
Hong Kong go down to Kenya in thriller
There was an early setback for hosts Hong Kong in the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series Qualifier as they lost a winning position to a late surge from Kenya, going down 24:21.
Kenya’s Sinaida Omondi scored a hat-trick of tries to seal the win. There were wins also for Papua New Guinea, Italy, Netherlands, Japan and Belgium.
Wednesday, April 5
Two more sleeps. Yup it’s 48 hours or so until the action kicks off at Hong Kong Stadium for another round of the Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.
We’ll be updating this page throughout the day with all the latest from around the city as teams prepare to kick off their campaigns.
Meanwhile, catch up with some of our team’s latest reports:
- South Africa (Afrika?) star Cecil Afrika on how he never thought he’d make his 50th tournament
- How Sevens is booming in the USA thanks to Nate Ebner effect and the Olympics.
- Paralympian star Andy Barrow on why Hong Kong can thrive in wheelchair rugby
- And why the future of the sport is Asian – thanks to the Hong Kong Sevens
World embraces sevens after Rio Olympics success
Before the Rio Olympics last year, rugby chiefs were confident that the impact of sevens would result in an explosion of interest in the game globally. And they were right, according to figures released by World Rugby.
As as usual, the influence of the Hong Kong Sevens continues to drive the popularity of sevens around the world, particularly in new markets such as the United States.
“In the immediate aftermath of Rio we saw an estimated 16.8 million new fans follow rugby sevens and in the previous six rounds [of the world series], we’ve seen tournaments play out to huge global TV audiences, social media figures averaging eight million video views per round and passionate and energetic fans at the events themselves ... and I am sure that the spectacle Hong Kong will again give us will further assist in ensuring those new fans are captured in the Game,” said World Rugby Competitions & Events Manager for Sevens Douglas Langley.
“Hong Kong is one of the most anticipated stops on the series and one of the most iconic, exciting and energetic events that World Rugby is proud to be associated with,” Langley added.
Fijian sevens players do their bit for the Tens
What do you do when you have a surplus of world-class sevens players? You lend them to a Tens team. UBB Gavekal benefited from the generosity of Fiji coach Gareth Baber with their four players leading the way as they upset second seeds Mourant Ozannes Samurai International 14-5 and ultimately top pool B at the GFI HKFC Tens.
UBB are seeded 11th after finishing in the bottom eight of the 16-team tournament in their first two appearances, but this year’s squad are boosted by the addition of Fijian playmaker Lemeki Tulele and fellow backs Josua Vici, Samu Bale and Glen Cakautini.
Captain Aorangi Stokes said: “It definitely helps having four Fiji Sevens players in the squad. They’re the x factor. Give them a bit of space and they’re magic, most definitely,” said Stokes.
“The result against Samurai wasn’t really a surprise to me. We knew that if we stuck to our structures and held the ball, we’d do well. We backed our defence, really.”
Minus the Badger, the Aussies are now a serious bunch
Last year, the Aussies gave us the Honey Badger aka Nick Cummins – the outrageous rugby player who offers a wealth of colourful Aussie sayings, most of which has yet to be translated into English. And he was a decent sevens player as well, though injury prevented him from playing in Hong Kong.
So it was a decidedly serious Australian training camp our writer Sam Agars visited on Wednesday afternoon. Still, the question had to be asked. What’s it like without the Badger?
“It’s definitely a bit quieter without the Honey Badger. He was a different sort of individual and he brought a lot of smiles to the boys,” said stand-in captain Tom Lucas.
They are now relying on veteran James “Chucky” Stannard for light entertainment. “He used to play along with the Honey Badger as much as he could,” said Lucas.
Lose weight with Samoa coach Gordon Tietjens
Want to lose weight without having to eat less? Better still, want to lose weight by eating more? Talk to Samoa coach Gordon Tietjens.
The former New Zealand coach is educating his new players on the benefits of good eating, so much so that one of his players said that he was eating more than before and still lost seven kilograms.
The only problem was that he also had to train twice a day. Read Robby Nimmo’s interview with the affable Titch.
There’s value in Sevens rubbish
For those who think the Hong Kong Sevens is a load of rubbish, well, it’s getting less so. Apparently the Sevens is leading the way in terms of how it handles the massive amounts of rubbish that is thrown away by well-behaved patrons during the three days of rugby fun.
In 2014, there was 210 tonnes of refuse collected. Last year, it was down to 101 tonnes. The resulting recycling efforts led to:
* 7.7 tonnes of paper waste being separated, collected and delivered to recyclers
* 2.1 tonnes of plastic waste being separated, collected and delivered to recyclers
* 4.2 tonnes of glass bottles being separated, collected and delivered to recyclers for manufacturing of eco-pavers and other construction materials.
* 500 kilograms of food waste being separated, collected and delivered to the HKSARG’s Kowloon Bay Pilot Composting plant for treatment (composting)
* 170 litres of used cooking oil collected and delivered to a local biodiesel producer
Look out for a full report on the Sevens post-tournament clean-up operations by our reporter Chan Kin-wa.
Cool runner: Jamaica’s Frazer ready for Hong Kong
Lisa Frazer discovered rugby during a trip to the beach in 2005, when she was 21. There was something “funny” happening in the sand. Now, she’s leading the Jamaican women’s team in the Hong Kong Sevens. She has also played almost every other sport, including bobsledding. Mathew Scott has the report.
The fastest man in rugby will return faster than ever
Carlin Isles will be back and faster than ever. That is the promise of United States coach Mike Friday, who said the speedster is recovering from ACL reconstruction and is ready to light up stadiums once again from next season onwards.
“It’s gone really, really well and we fully expect to see him back flying at the start of next season,” said Friday about the man dubbed the fastest men in sevens. “The thing about Carlin is that no one will ever question his work ethic and he is working meticulously hard, one to ensure he doesn’t lose any speed, two he doesn’t lose any power and three he comes back faster than he went away.”
Isles, 27, has a personal best 100-metres time of 10.24 seconds.
On the subject of speed, read Mathew Scott’s piece on the fastest players you’ll see at this year’s Hong Kong Sevens.
Is F1 driver Daniel Ricciardo looking for Sevens tickets?
We start off with Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo. What has he got to do with the Hong Kong Sevens, you ask? Well, we’ll find a link somehow.
The Australian was seen walking down Causeway Bay on Thursday looking left and right and crossing a road. The Red Bull driver looked completely at ease and at home as he strolled past Times Square soaking in that unique Hong Kong atmosphere.
The question remains, though, as to why he was looking left and right? We have one of three possible answers.
1. He was looking for a tout to buy Hong Kong Sevens tickets (there’s our link). Well, they don’t usually turn up until about Thursday.
2. He was looking for a Formula One circuit in Hong Kong.
3. He was told by one of the Red Bull camera crew following him, “Hey Dan, look left and right as if you’re soaking in that unique Hong Kong atmosphere”.
Our writer Unus Alladin will be interviewing Ricciardo on Wednesday. Look out for his piece.
Tuesday, April 4
Union launches community foundation
The Hong Kong Rugby Union Community foundation launched its Hong Kong Sevens campaign with a host of rugby clinics with ambassadors including Deaf Rugby, Inclusive Rugby & Wheelchair Rugby, making for a fantastic morning for family and kids on the public holiday on Tuesday.
Watch highlights from the six Sevens Series tournaments so far
South Africa have dominated the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series this season, winning four of six rounds to sit 23 points clear of England on top of the table. England are the only team to beat South Africa this season, achieving the feat on three occasions including in the finals in Cape Town and Vancouver.
Watch highlights from all of the six tournaments so far as we head into the biggest of them all, the 2017 Hong Kong Sevens.
Cecil Afrika returns to Hong Kong for his 50th tournament
South African star is his country’s greatest points scorer with 1,204. However, two years ago, he suffered an injury at the Hong Kong Sevens that he thought would end his career. Yet he returns to the city to play in his 50 tournament and he remains a key member of the Blitzboks as they attempt to break their duck in Hong Kong.
Samoa’s sevens squad will have a double dose of Tietjens tutoring during the Hong Kong Sevens with their coach Gordon’s son, Paul, joining as an assistant, according to Samoan media.
PE teacher Paul has been roped in after the resignation of their previous conditioning trainer, given the 28-year-old’s experience with the Bay of Plenty Sevens team over the past two years.
Samoa face England, Australia and South Korea in the pool play this weekend.
Chater Garden’s Tuesday night rundown
Admission is free.
4pm: Performance by the St Andrew’s Pipe Band
5pm: Solo saxophone from Griffe Saunders
6pm: MC chitchat with RWC 2007 winner Jean de Villiers & Rio 2016 Silver medallist Huriana Manuel
6.10pm: Live music from The Still Unbroken
7.25pm: Solo music performance by Owen Campbell
8.05pm: MC chitchat with 7s legends Justin Harrison (Australia) and Gareth Thomas (Wales)
8.15pm: Live music from 9th State
Ostrich eggs instead of rugby balls? Shell-shockingly not fooled
England’s rugby sevens establishment went to great lengths to convince the ignorant that any egg-shaped object will do. And the biggest egg around is that of the ostrich’s, so they even made a video that tried to be serious but was seriously ludicrous, showing England players tossing huge eggs around supposedly as part of their new sevens training regime.
Absolutely no need to disrespect readers’ intelligence here by informing when this video was put out, but it was accompanied by an article on the England Rugby website.
However, apparently enough people were fooled to convince The Sun to list it as one of the best pranks of the day.
Interesting stat from Stat Attack about best attacking team so far this year.
#StatAttack Fiji is the best attacking team in the World 7s series this year:
— Fiji 7s Team (@Fiji7sTeam) April 4, 2017
Source : http://www.scmp.com/sport/rugby/hk-sevens/article/2084300/hong-kong-sevens-2017-countdown-blog-follow-all-build-greatest