In every sevens tournament there are at least four prizes to be gained: Cup, Plate, Bowl and Shield. In Hong Kong there was another prize to be gained: core status in the World Series.
The core teams in the World Series are the teams that automatically play all tournaments. The organisers of each tournament then can invite teams to make up the numbers at their discretion.
The lowest ranking core team after the London Sevens drops from this status, to be replaced with the team that wins the qualifying tournament on the fringes of the Hong Kong Sevens.
Currently Japan is ranked above the two core teams that are looking at relegation: Portugal and Russia. They performed so well in the two tournaments they were invited to join that they are ahead of these teams at present.
Japan beat Zimbabwe pretty soundly in the semi-final, while Hong Kong got the better of Germany.
In the final Japan got off to a flyer. While the atmosphere was tense, and the players even more so, Japan scored two tries and a conversion in quick succession to gain a 12-0 lead over Hong Kong.
Hong Kong came back at the end of the first half, scoring a try under the posts. They were the only team to score against Japan in the entire tournament. Early in the second half they scored again to make it 14-12, to the delight of the home crowd.
But Japan proved to be the stronger side, and amongst the boos of the crowd, they pulled out a 24-14 lead, which Hong Kong never overcame.
With the 2019 World Cup taking place in Japan, and the Sunwolves joining Super Rugby, eyes are on rugby in Japan. There is funding and there certainly is expertise. Their player base is only growing and they really are the up-and-coming team, both in 15s and in sevens.
Gaining core status in the World Series is going to be a huge boost to them, in funding, publicity and experience.
With Hong Kong – who now look to be favourites to win the last Olympic birth during the qualifying tournament in Monaco this June – also having introduced a fully professional elite program in 15s, they will be improving massively as well. And with their performance in sevens in mind, it would come as no surprise if they end up qualifying for the Japan World Cup.
Paul Peerdeman, Pundit Arena
Heineken Rugby Club celebrates and rewards real supporters who make the game what it is.
Read More About: Germany, hong kong, hong kong 7s, hong kong sevens, japan, japan rugby, japan rugby world cup 2019, London 7s, london sevens, Morocco, olympic rugby, Portugal, Portugal rugby, Rio Olym, russia, Russia rugby, sevens world series, spain, sunwolves, world rugby, world rugby sevens