The 2017 Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, organized by the Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) marks the 42nd year of Sevens in Hong Kong. The tournament spans over three days from April 7to 9. The organizers are expecting 120,000 visitors to attend the event. Hong Kong Sevens was originally the idea of the Marketing and Promotions Manager of Rothman’s Export for a Pan Asia 15s Rugby Tournament. Rodney Bentham-Wood wanted Rothmans to sponsor a Pan Asia Rugby Tournament. Leah May was considering the Carlsberg as the main sponsor. However, after a discussion between him and the chairman of the HKRFU, South African entrepreneur, A.D.C.”Tokkie” Smith, it was decided that a Sevens Tournament would be cheaper and simpler to set up. The idea was then implemented by Duncan Mc Tavish (HKRFC then captain), Trevor J. Bedford OBE (Chairman of Hong Kong Land, Jardine Matheson Limited, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group and Director of HSBC) and Ian Gow, the Rothmans’ Tobacco company executive for Hong Kong. After an initial proposal was refused by the Rugby Football Union in England, the HKRFU changed its focus and sent out invitations to Asian and Pacific sides.
On March 28, 1976 clubs from Indonesia, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, Japan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Fiji participated in the first Hong Kong Sevens Tournament at the Hong Kong Football Club in Happy Valley sponsored by Rothmans’ Tobacco and Cathay Pacific. This was an important step as this was one of the first rugby tournaments that attracted commercial sponsorship. Of the countries represented in the inaugural sevens tournament, only Australia and New Zealand did not send national sides, instead being represented by the Wallatars and the Cantabrians respectively. These two clubs met in the final where the Cantabrians won 24-8.
The series thereafter grew into a huge competition with national representative sevens sides competing, and with this the growth of the tournament moved to the Hong Kong Stadium in 1982.
The Hong Kong Sevens were ahead of their time, and an influential force in the modernization of rugby union, for example, the Hong Kong Sevens was one of the first rugby union tournaments to attract major sponsorship, when the Airlines Cathay Pacific sponsored the 1976 tournament. They also provided a level of cosmopolitan international competition, which tended not to exist in rugby before the first Rugby World Cup in 1987, especially since Hong Kong was not seen as one of the “Big Eight”, and other than some involvement with France, the Commonwealth teams tended to be notoriously clannish. By 1986, the Hong Kong Sevens were held up as a positive example to others. The defending cup champions are Fiji, Plate England, Bowl Argentina and Shield Russia.
The participating teams for this year: Pool A – England, Australia, Samoa, South Korea. Pool B – South Africa, Canada, Kenya, France. Pool C – Fiji, New Zealand, Wales, Japan. Pool D – The USA, Argentina, Scotland, Russia. Pool E – Germany, Tonga, Uganda, Jamaica. Pool F – Hong Kong, Chile, Sri Lanka, Namibia. Pool G – Spain, Papua New Guinea, Uruguay, Guyana
Women’s – Pool A – Japan, China, the Netherlands, Jamaica, Pool B – Argentina, Kenya, Hong Kong, Belgium. Pool C – South Africa, Colombia, Papua New Guinea, Italy.