The captains of the 12 teams competing in the Men’s World Rugby Sevens Series Qualifier will all be aiming to earn a core place on the 2020 series following today’s official launch.
Pool E of the men’s qualifier includes hosts Hong Kong and fellow Asian representatives the Philippines, alongside Zimbabwe and Tonga, the latter two having featured on the 2019 series as invitational sides in Dubai and Cape Town and Hamilton and Sydney respectively.
With Japan having won this tournament in 2018, both Hong Kong and the Philippines will have high hopes of continuing Asia’s continued development on the series.
Speaking ahead of the tournament Hong Kong captain Max Woodward focused on the “massive” boost the home crowd will give his side.
“The crowd here is massive. The atmosphere here is awesome and we don’t get much opportunity to play around the world so for a home crowd to be that vocal and get behind us as they do is massive for us,” said Woodward.
“We are taking some expectations off ourselves this year. We haven’t performed well in the qualifier in the last few years.
“You can’t come in without the expectation to try and win it but there are tough teams with a lot of experience out there and we just need to focus on our first matches.
“With the Olympics coming up there are a lot of opportunities for Hong Kong Rugby and there is a lot on the horizon. The more tournaments we have, fifteens or sevens, will all be beneficial for us.”
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Hong Kong’s first match will be against the Philippines who are appearing in their first Hong Kong Sevens since 2012.
Their captain Danny Matthews echoes Woodward’s sentiments on how tough this competition will be.
“To be captain is a great honour but to be actually be here, it doesn’t happen often for us with our last appearance here in 2012,” added Matthews.
“It is something all the boys really appreciate and so do the nation. They know it is a big tournament for us and we have the support of all of the Philippines behind us and that’s what gets us really excited.
“We have Hong Kong, Zimbabwe and Tonga in our pool. We play Hong Kong quite regularly in the Asia Rugby Sevens Series. Every year we play them we get closer, last year it was down to the wire and we lost by a try.
“In the past we have played Zimbabwe twice and lost on the buzzer twice, so hopefully our fitness is good enough to get us the win there. Tonga go hard, but hopefully with some speed we can get around them.”
The men’s qualifier will commence at 10:00 local time (GMT+8) on Friday 5 April when Germany take on Uganda at the Hong Kong Stadium. The final of the qualifier will take place at 16:30 local time (GMT+8) on Sunday.